It’s been ten years since Josef slept on the streets, but he still relies on support from Webber Street for company, for help with essentials and to sustain him spiritually.
Josef first came to Webber Street seven years ago when got a studio flat nearby and he’s been a regular here ever since. Immediately before he was living in hostels and before that sleeping on London’s streets. The flat is leaky in wet weather and suffers with heavy pollution, and he says that he’s unable to afford food or heating. He still goes to bed with his clothes on. Hot breakfasts at Webber Street keep him going.
He came down to London from Scotland as a young man in 1976. He wasn’t getting on with members of his family at the time and didn’t feel very loved. London was the place of opportunity, so he took on cash-in-hand labouring jobs while living in hostels. Living from day-to-day, drinking and gambling and not thinking much about the future.
Then he got a flat in Russell Square, found a partner and settled down. Life seemed to be working out for him until his partner died. “When she died, I went downhill, I started drinking again,” he says. “I fell behind on my rent and eventually got evicted to live on the streets.”
London can be a lonely place, Josef says. “Some say it’s the loneliest city in the world. I lost all my closest friends years ago. A lot of them were taken by drugs and alcohol.”
Opening to faith
Webber Street means much more than a place to help get with essential supplies and a bit of company. Spiritually, Webber Street has given him a chance to open up to faith. He attends the Bible studies each week, where a group of half a dozen men sit together for an hour and read through John’s gospel.
Through the care and invitation of the staff here, Josef has been introduced to church.
The nearby Globe Church has partnered closely with Webber Street day centre for the past few years. Volunteers from the congregation give their time and energy to the day centre. They also put on monthly evening meals for Webber Street guests. Most important, they have given time and consideration to the way that they welcome and include people from Webber Street to the congregation.
One of the things Josef finds remarkable is that people at Globe Church – most of them students and younger singles and couples in London for first jobs – are interested in him.
“At church they make an old man like me feel good. When I’m with them I feel the spirit coming back to life in me.”
Still for Josef, the living walk with Jesus that he sees in the Webber Street team feels just beyond his reach. “The spirit lives for ever. I believe all that. I want to be touched by the real feeling, the real moment, to experience beautiful love and happiness.”
“I keep asking for God to accept me. I want to get to know him better, but I’m not there yet. I think the devil holds me back, and pulls me back to gambling and smoking.
“I want God to grasp me and to feel him close by me like the people here do.”