It was fantastic to be at the Patronal service last Sunday to celebrate with the congregation. The story of St Martin is just as relevant this year as in any other. Although rough sleeping around central London is about half the level it was prior to the pandemic, that’s still nearly 200 people a night in Westminster with nowhere to call home.

The Connection is working hard to meet the continued need for our help. Our services are different to enable us to be focused and quick to respond to the needs of our clients. The Pandemic has hit some industries very hard. Mark accrued huge rent arrears in 2020 and 21 as he couldn’t work as a security guard during that time. He was finally evicted in September and came to us for help. Through our brief intervention service, he regained employment in security and is currently working at COP26.

St Martin didn’t just give a small piece of his cloak to the beggar, he divided it in half. For me, this is a really significant part of the story. I consider this to remind us that helping people in need can take significant resources and effort. We were able to help Mark swiftly and he is now getting back on his feet. It can be a very different story for some of the people who come to see us.

Connor has a long history of offending, related to an alcohol dependency. He is also an amputee and as a result his mobility is limited. Over the last few years, in periods where he wasn’t in custody, he was provided with temporary accommodation that was not suitable for him to cook or wash. This compromised his ability to recover and move into a home.

This time round, our Housing and Resettlement team worked with the prison 4 months prior to Connor’s release. We liaised with Westminster Council to enable him to move into a flat where he could look after himself properly. Connor can’t read or write and therefore he is also being supported to bid for a flat for the long term. He has been out of custody, and off alcohol for six months, longer than he has managed for many years. However, perhaps the most uplifting thing of all is that he regularly cooks roast dinners for his elderly next door neighbour.

The end of the story of St Martin reminds me about the grace and humanity that comes with our work at The Connection. I was told by an old colleague of mine that our work is a privilege and every year that goes by, I consider his words to be absolutely true.

Pam Orchard