When lockdown was announced in March 2020, Gloria Gardner, the housekeeper at St Mary’s, immediately recognised the catastrophic implications for street sleepers. Gloria had by then been housekeeper at the Presbytery for 7 years, combining this with working at Waitrose Belgravia and volunteering six months each year at the Glassdoor charity for the homeless. This meant she was ideally placed to coordinate donations and work with individuals from other local charities to set up an emergency response system.
Gloria began soliciting donations from Waitrose and making sandwiches in St Mary’s presbytery kitchen, which she took out into the streets along with bottles of water. In the first days Gloria was most struck by the absolute desperation for water; with food outlets and public facilities closed there was nowhere to get a drink. She quickly noticed that among some of the homeless there was also a craving for sweet foods and so Fr Andrew reached out to members of the local community. Soon there was a cottage industry of sandwich makers and cake bakers delivering supplies to the church porch. These would be cut up and packaged for the evening, when Gloria would head out with flasks of hot tea to deliver supplies to those in need. Clothes, toiletries and other essentials also found their way to the church porch, where a team sorted them for distribution under Gloria’s care. One of the charities Gloria worked with, Under One Sky, has told the story in this film.
Once the dedicated homeless charities were able to resume wider service following lockdown, Gloria and St Mary’s continued their work at a more local level, delivering 40 meals weekly throughout the winter months. The programme is ongoing and the recent building work has included creating a dedicated area to store goods and materials for distribution to the homeless.