Catholic Life

Hundreds enjoy the Passage garden party

A view of the garden party in the lovely College Garden

The Passage, the centre for homeless people in central London which Cardinal Hume founded, held its summer garden party in the lovely College Garden of Westminster Abbey on Wednesday, July 21.

The garden party took place over a glorious, sunny evening and a maximum capacity of 500 supporters and friends attended. The raffle was at its most popular, raising £2,800.

College Garden occupies a site that has been under continuous cultivation for more than 900 years. Westminster Abbey’s first infirmary garden was established there in the 11th century.

The stone precinct walls of the garden date from the 14th century. The dormitory building on one side was designed by the Earl of Burlington, based on a design by Sir Christopher Wren. This building belongs to Westminster School.

The Passage runs London’s largest voluntary sector day centre for the homeless, and every day the staff and volunteers at the centre help more than 200 neglected, poor and vulnerable individuals.

The 10th fundraising concert, A Night Under the Stars, in aid of The Passage and masterminded by Peter Sheppard, chairman of The Catholic Herald, will be held in the Royal Festival Hall on Thursday October 7. The 2009 concert raised the extraordinary sum of £80,000.

Recently Grant Shapps MP, housing minister, visited The Passage to see at first hand the work the centre does in helping homeless clients off the streets and back into society.

The Minister toured the Passage’s day centre to see the services on offer and to meet with homeless clients to hear their stories, and listen to the issues that most concern them.

Mr Shapps had this to say about the work of The Passage: “I know the work of The Passage well and the services they provide to people who sleep rough in the Victoria area. During my recent visit I was very impressed by the dedication of the staff and volunteers and saw first-hand how rough sleepers were being helped to get their lives back on track. The Passage really makes a difference and is a vital part of the rough sleeping services in Westminster.”

Mick Clarke, chief executive of The Passage, said: “It was good to welcome Grant back to The Passage after his visit here whilst Shadow Housing Minister.

“As a member of the Homelessness Foundation, (which David Cameron launched whilst in Opposition), the Passage has worked very closely with Grant to look at initiatives to tackle homelessness. Our clients, staff and volunteers discussed a range of issues, including the Big Society, health services for homeless people and housing benefit and welfare reform proposals.”