It seems another epoch now but only two months ago Oxford housing issues seemed so unsolvable that the very best on offer for some would be a camp bed in a temporary night shelter, a different one each night, open only at night. What was offered was a safe environment, a warm welcome, hot drinks and a snack on arrival, a warm bed, and breakfast the following morning with a further option of a coffee club at the gatehouse. For some guests this was a respite from a life lived out on the streets and camping, for others it was a pause that allowed them to explore the very few options and wait for vacancies, still others were too unstable to accept the beds offered and every night we waited for the neediest guests who wouldn't come or only came in occasionally. Some of the guests wanted to talk, some were in despair, other delighted to be there, others stoical, most calm and polite most of the time. Most looked through the clean clothes, socks ,toiletries and underwear on offer taking what was needed for the week ahead. By the second week of March it was clear that however impossible these guests had to be housed and by in no dormitory accommodation somehow for almost everyone that is what has happened. In Oxford four hundred trained volunteers manned the shelters supported by a valiant project worker and assistant. At the eleven St Alban's Thursday night sessions shift volunteers included parishioners neighbors, members of the other Oxford churches, students with essays to write, people who had never set foot in a church before, overnight volunteers who would get up and go to work, an eighteen year old who volunteered for his eighteenth birthday, at least one monk and one wheelchair user. Each morning the laundry would find its way to St Stephens house to be done by the their wonderful housekeeper. It also felt as if the entire parish was supporting us in some way: there were lots of cash donations, a fantastic carol concert that raised the rest of the budgeted cost: then the goods in kind donations of maintenance services, fresh baked cakes and bread weekly, hotel shampoos and soaps from some very unexpected places, anonymous bags of warm clothing, job lots of porridge, pot noodles, new underwear and a lot of other supplies especially for women. We had food left most weeks that went to the Porch, we had clothes bounty to gift to the Emmaus project, we had supplies left over which went into the OWNs pool and onto the expanding food banks to supported the newly housed guests, we had money left over which has gone to the Porch Covid operation. We all learnt a lot and where that takes us in the future is up to us.

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