Welcoming the Stranger: Response from the Mother of Unfailing Help Parish – Leeds
‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’
Some lay faithful and clergy attended an open meeting for all Leeds parishes, in the summer to gain information on the West Yorkshire Destitute Asylum Seekers Network (WYDAN). This resulted in a keen interest from the Cathedral Parish in exploring it further using Wheeler Hall as a base for hosting a group of 10 male destitute asylum seekers. These individuals are referred to WYDAN following screening by PAFRAS and the Red Cross.
A small core group was formed in late summer and started planning for the hosting week which we agreed to be between Monday 4th-Monday 11th. February 2019. The core group met on several occasions with the aim of achieving a welcoming week for our guests within the ethos of safeguarding and health and safety for all our guests and volunteers.
The parish responded very well to our appeal for funds raising £833.00 and thirty six people volunteered to cover the four different shifts as the centre was open each night from 6.00 pm till 09.00 am the following morning. We needed to liaise with local restaurants and supermarkets who were generous in providing meals, essential basic food, snacks, fruit etc. Laundry service was provided by St George’s Crypt. Throughout the hosting week the leaders held the WYDAN phone in case of new referrals and for the guests to contact the shelter. Volunteers’ roles included setting-up the centre, socialising with the guests, serving food, responding to guests’ queries, washing-up, cleaning, preparing breakfast, preparing packed lunches etc and of course being awake during the night shifts.
Our guests in this instance came from Somalia, Iraq, India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Palestine, and Democratic Republic of Congo. Communicating in English was not an issue. They all appreciated the welcome and kindness received.
Overall this was a very positive experience for the parish and gave us an opportunity to translate our faith into practical help.
For further information please contact Rev. Dr. Joseph D Cortis – firstname.lastname@example.org
WYDAN’s goal is to keep this shelter open all year round. If continuity is not achieved, men like the ones we hosted will end up on the streets until another shelter is secured.