The Pineapple Project
How Gloria Gardner, housekeeper at St Mary’s, led local response to Covid-19
When lockdown was announced last March, Gloria Gardner, the housekeeper at St Mary’s, immediately recognised the catastrophic implications for street sleepers. Gloria has been housekeeper at the Presbytery for the last 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.
The project was wound down in July as lockdown eased and the emphasis moved to finding longer-term solutions. However, with winter approaching and the crisis still with us, the community is gearing up to meet the challenge again.
On Tuesday last we received the good news that planning permission had been granted by Westminster Council Planners for the Pineapple Project.
Why does our neighbourhood want or need such a space? The answer to that lies in St Mary’s history and community. St Mary’s was built in 1874 as a church for the servants of Eaton Square and the poor in the nearby slums of Pimlico. From the start it ran an active...
Drawing by John Springs