London's homeless get a bed for the night at the Norwegian church.

Text and photo: Marte Kvam Eide

South of Thames and east of London Bridge, light are flowing out the windows of the Norwegian church. The streets are quiet and cold. The times when these parts were filled with seafarers are over. For several years the local churches in the poor neighborhood Southwark taken in homeless guests in the coldest months of the year, through the project ROBES. For the first time, the Norwegian church takes part in this project as well.

prestPriest Jens Bjelland Grønvold.

– We are first and foremost a church for Noregians abroad, but we can’t ignore that we also are a church in one of the poorest neighborhoods in London, says Priest Jens Bjelland Grønvold.

He took the initiative to make sure the Norwegian church became a part of this project.

– As a church we have an obligation th society, to make an effort. We can’t ignore what is happening around us, he says.

Every Tuesday the church welcomes a group of homeless people to stay the night. They are served two meals, get a bed to sleep in and they get the opportunity to take a warm shower.

– We see homeless people on our way to work everyday. It feels good to be able to make a difference for some of them, says Jens.

ND8_2511 Hostess Line Ådland prepares the meal of the night.

Around five thirty, the volunteers for the night arrives. They will cook, be with the guests, and stay the night. Ingvild Bugge and Sarah Kloster is two of them. They both have husbands who work for NATO, and they go to know eachother in London. They are both excited and happy to help and make a difference.

In the kitchen some of the volunteers are preparing dinner.

– We are very lucky, both the food chain Tesco and Borough Market donates food for this project, says hostess Line Ådland. We never know in advance what we will get, so it’s a fun challenge!

At six o’clock, the homeless start to arrive. They are “checked in” and get towels and bed sheets. The church fills up by the around 15 homeless people that are staying for the night.

ND8_2461Baboucarr (36) from Gambia is one of them.

– I came to London ten years ago, he says.

He tells us about his ex girlfriend, how he worked hard to learn English, and how he dreams of going to University.

– I want to go back to my country, he says. I want to hlp my people. He seems full of hope.  – God leads the way. He led me here, he says and points to the church ceiling.

After a while the homeless has settled in the church room. Ross from Tsjekkia has taken place by the piano and is playing. Then dinner is served, and the guests serves themselves to both seconds and thirds. They are hungry and tired after a long day out on the cold London streets.

– This is my favorite church! Exclaims one of the homeless, who doesn’t wish to share his name.

– They take such good care of us here. We need social interaction just like other people, it’s lonely out in the streets, he says.

Next morning the volunteers are up early to make breakfast.

Ingvild Bugge, who had the last nightshift, invites the guests to hel themselves with tea and coffee.

– What strikes me is that they are ordenary people, some of them have a job and a family, but for different reasons life right now has gone a bit south, she says.

After breakfast everyone helps to clean up.

Baboucarr smiles and looks around the church room, where he has been able to get a good nights sleep.

– See you next week, says Baboucarr and reaches out to thank the priest.

The the young man from Gambia walks out into the streets of London.

This article was first publised in the Norwegian church’s magazine HJEM nr. 1, 2017