Church and synagogue team up to tackle growing homeless problem in Golders Green

A church and a synagogue will be throwing their doors open to welcome homeless people this winter to tackle a growing problem in the area.

The rise in rough sleepers in Golders Green has been put down to the area’s transport hubs being used by those leaving the country via Stanstead and Luton airports. They sleep rough while waiting to catch a bus or train onwards.

Now Alyth Gardens Synagogue and Golders Green Parish Church have joined up with Homeless Action in Barnet (HAB) to offer beds for the night on their premises.

The Rev Rex Morton, from the Church in West Heath Drive, said: “We recognise that homelessness in Golders Green is an issue. It’s constantly a feature here. There are many people who live on the street and are struggling.

“Some of them have mental health issues and others are immigrants who have come to the UK to work and have fallen through the cracks.

“The others plan to go home and don’t have somewhere to stay.”

Mr Morton said the problem was largely caused by Golders Green Tube and bus station, saying: “We are currently a hub – you can travel in different directions.

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“We saw a surge of Romanians arriving and a surge of them leaving. One chap said ‘We thought we could make a living here’.

“The recession has now hit us hard. There are people who are struggling to get that first rung on the ladder.”

He said he regularly has one or two people a week knock on the church’s door asking for money, food or a place to sleep. “A lot of people sleep on Hamsptead Heath or find other places,” he added.

Nikki Levitan, the social justice co-ordinator at Alyth Gardens Synagogue, in Alyth Gardens, worked with the church to set up the project. HAB will refer homeless people to the synagogue and church in January and February.

She said: “The current situation in London with immigrants has caused a rise in homelessness as lot of them don’t have anywhere to live. The numbers are also going to rise because of government cutbacks to benefits and high levels of unemployment.”

Rabbi Mark Goldsmith, of Alyth Gardens Synagogue, said: “We are looking forward to working across two faiths to create a home and its very special this project is getting started during the Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles) which commemorates the years that Jews spent in the desert on their way to The Promised Land.

“A really important message of this festival is the precariousness of the shelter we live under.

“I think we are quite insulated in our community. We know a number of people sleep outside in all weathers – people who we pass on the street on the way to the station.

“One of the things I think will happen during this project is that we will get to know the people who live amongst us.”