Volunteers brave freezing temperatures to help east London’s homeless

Homeless people and drug addicts in east London felt the helping hand of volunteers and local Tesco stores on Thursday.

On a night when temperatures dropped to minus three degrees, the Friends Together group in Mile End welcomed homeless people into the East London Tabernacle Baptist Church in Burdett Road.

After supplying sandwiches, biscuits and hot drinks, in part donated by Tesco stores in Bow Road and Burdett Road, a group of 10 volunteers went out into the freezing temperatures to help those sleeping on the streets.

Group founder Chris Okworu, 51, a pastor at the Redeemed Christian Church of God in Mile End Road, where he also owns a pharmacy, said: “This group of people needs help.

“They deserve some encouragement and deserve something back from society.”

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Volunteers sought out known sleeping points for homeless people in Stepney, Bethnal Green, Whitechapel and Aldgate with around 300 pounds of food between them.

They then planned to widen their mission to central London if they had any food left over.

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Imtiaz Ahmed, manager of the Bow Road Tesco, said: “It’s getting cold now and there are people out there who need support and help.

“Chris went around local businesses looking for supporters and it was something we wanted to get involved in.”

Rafal Kowalczyk, 31, from Poland, said the group had helped to change his life.

He was sleeping rough until 22 months ago and had drink and drug problems, including using cocaine and amphetamines, but Friends Together helped him find a home and work through the Victory Outreach church in Millharbour, Docklands.

He said: “I’ve found peace now, this has really helped me.”

‘John’, 55, stays at a night shelter at the Tabernacle Road church on most evenings.

He had been invited to the Friends Together meeting by Mr Okworu for a cup of tea and said that the majority of programmes like this are linked to churches.

He said: “No-one else is caring. I’ve gone along to a Baptist church, I’ve gone to Catholic churches. It doesn’t matter what denomination they are, they will help you.”

The group meets every Thursday evening. For further information, call 07930753017.

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