Homeless shelter from the cold as UK mosque opens its doors

Plight of street dwellers freezing from a bitter winter led to the decision

epa07240108 A homeless man sleeps in a door way in London, Britain, 19 December 2018. London now accounts for a quarter of Britain's homeless. Some twenty five thousand people across the UK are facing Christmas on the street.  EPA/ANDY RAIN
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As Britain’s bitterly cold winter shows no sign of abating, a Birmingham mosque has opened its doors to the homeless amid concern at the freezing temperatures and the housing crisis.

Those looking for help sleep overnight in the mosque's community hall and are given food, snacks and warm drinks. The project began two weeks ago when volunteers from the Green Lane Mosque and Community Centre began dropping off leaflets around the city advertising their support.

One homeless person, who came with a wheelchair-bound friend, became so cold before arriving he could not feel his feet, the mosque said. All are welcome, regardless of race, religion or background according to Humayan Saleem, head of welfare at the centre.

“Walking around the city centre at night you see all the homeless huddled in doorways. They sleep on concrete floors in freezing temperatures. Over the last couple of years in Birmingham there have been cases of homeless people freezing to death and we want to help avoid this,” said Kamran Hussain, the mosque’s general manager.

On day three there were 12 staying in the mosque overnight with numbers described as “consistent” thereafter.

Organisers want to continue for a number of weeks and will then reassess the situation. It is, however, reliant on local goodwill and the volunteer efforts of around 20 people.

“We have had a call out for volunteers from our congregation and have had a good response….  it is difficult to find people who can contribute to stay for a whole night so we are requesting more people to come forward and register their support for the overnight stay from 11pm to 7.30am,” said Qaid Khizar, an administration support assistant at the mosque.

The centre said it also distributes food to the community via its foodbank, which has been running for years.

In January temperatures plunged below freezing as Birmingham was hit by a torrent of snow and ice. According to research released in November by the charity Shelter, there are at least 320,000 homeless people in Britain – a four percent rise on the previous year.