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I don’t think there will ever be a time when homelessness doesn’t sadden me. Yet, having weathered difficult times myself, I can see how it could happen to anyone. Without the support network of family and friends, the threat of losing your place to live can loom in the background of many people’s lives, especially with the current housing and cost of living crisis. But until I started working for Church Army, I did not have a real grasp of the devastating impact homelessness has.

It was at a recent visit to Church Army’s Marylebone Project, that the harsh reality was brought into sharp focus. I had joined in a knitting class and I confess, I have no knitting skills whatsoever, but a lady was quick to help me. She was incredibly skilled and had an impressive collection of things she had made at the classes, but what struck me most was her willingness to help me.

Juliette opened up about her story and what brought her to the project. A long-term relationship breakdown and with no family in the UK— culminated in her finding herself homeless. She told me she shelters in the local bus station at night, too scared to sleep, hunched over her backpack to prevent theft, and constantly in fear. The freezing temperatures, hard surfaces, and constant danger had taken a considerable toll on her body and mind. She couldn’t hide her emotion as she recalled the time she did fall asleep, only to wake up to find her backpack, containing all her possessions, stolen. All she had left were the clothes she was wearing.

The Widow’s Offering

The memory of that event was clearly distressing for Juliette, but she quickly began telling me about more positive things happening in her life with the help of the project. I asked Juliette if she had thought about selling the items she made in the classes, but her response surprised me because most of the items she creates are for other homeless people.

She explained that she makes each item with a particular person in mind, considering not only what that person may need, but what fabrics and colours would suit them and would bring them a little joy. As she was telling me about some of the garments she has made and who they were for, her face lit up. This extraordinary, selfless act embodied her compassionate nature and a longing to make others feel valued and cared for. Her generous spirit, despite her own dire circumstances, was deeply humbling.

I immediately thought about the Widow’s Offering – Mark 12:41-44

Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.

Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”’

- Mark 12:41-44 NIV

I couldn’t help but see Juliette in this story. Despite her own suffering, she selflessly considered the needs of others, offering what little she had.

“It struck me that if we could all possess a fraction of Juliette’s spirit, the issue of homelessness might cease to exist.”

Juliette - Title Image

Fresh Hope at The Marylebone Project

Thankfully, Church Army’s 24/7 Drop-in The Sanctuary, which is part of the wider offering at The Marylebone Project in London, provides Juliette with a retreat. It is the only place she can go to for a moment of safety from the constant threat of violence that haunts her outside.

The Marylebone Project is dedicated to supporting homeless women, with staff and volunteers who are experts in delivering wrap-around and trauma-informed care. Offering accommodation, healthcare, education, and everything a woman needs to start her path to independent living, it is the largest and longest running women’s hostel in the UK.

At the Sanctuary, women can access safety, warmth, and essential services like showers and washing facilities. A weekly rota of daily classes are also offered, covering a range of activities from sewing, art, and exercise, to building essential skills such as IT, English speaking, and cooking. These classes increase confidence, foster new friendships, and begin the process of rebuilding the individual so often unseen because of the stigma of homelessness.

Our Call as the Church

Meeting Juliette had a profound impact on me and one that I will continue to reflect on for a long time to come. As Christians, are we not called to love and serve others, and be ready to help when needed? I felt Juliette’s selfless giving and unwavering kindness truly embodied these values. Surely, it is our duty as people of Faith to ensure that every woman, whether Juliette or someone yet to find her voice amidst despair, is granted the opportunity to stitch her life back together, one thread of dignity at a time.

By supporting Church Army, you can help women like Juliette access the expert care they need to begin their journey to a life free from fear and full of hope and promise.

Find out more about how you can support here: