Helping the Homeless

by Katherine Garner

Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.

Psalm 82:3

We are very privileged to live in our lovely town of Ongar, and I guess we are fortunate that we do not have a visible homeless problem here. But our neighbouring towns of Harlow, Chelmsford and Brentwood certainly do, and in winter it’s hard not to feel compassion for those sleeping rough on the streets or without a permanent roof over their heads. This is why last Autumn in the Parish of High Ongar we started collecting items to fill Christmas Bags for the homeless – practical items such as cleansing wipes, anti perspirant, first aid kits, torches, thermal mugs; also small items of clothing – hats, scarves, gloves, socks, underwear; practical dry food items such as instant noodles, pasta in a cup, as well as a few gift luxuries – chocolates, biscuits, cosmetics.

I publicised the campaign on the Anything Ongar facebook age and was overwhelmed with offers of donations from Ongar people. My dining room soon became a store room for all manner of donations. At St Mary’s High Ongar, we packed 55 sturdy supermarket bags full of these items just before Christmas, and they were delivered to the Sanctus Homeless Charity in Chelmsford, (where I volunteer on a Tuesday), on Christmas Eve, with a hand written Christmas card in each. They were very well received – some of the service users were not able to believe the contents of their Christmas bag.

This year the Parish of High Ongar we will run the campaign again. But of course the problem of homelessness is not just a problem at Christmas, and indeed at Sanctus numbers needing their services have grown throughout 2019.

So this year we are organising a Fundraising Harvest Supper to raise much needed money to keep Sanctus Cafe open. Everyday they feed up to 80 or so homeless people. They give out donated sleeping bags and tents, clean clothes and sanitary products and advise and signpost users to other services where they can get help.

The Supper will take place on September 7th at St Mary’s High Ongar, and will be a 2 course posh ploughman’s buffet, for a suggested minimum donation of £15. (Of course we’d love people to donate more if they can!). The event will be BYO drinks and we can seat up to 100 people so we really hope all the places will be filled. There will be a speaker there from Sanctus to tell us more about their work, and we will launch the 2019 “Christmas Bags for the Homeless” campaign.

We hope the lovely people of Ongar will want to show their support for this event and for the campaign by getting a couple of tickets, or even by getting a table together. 

Tickets are available from 

or email

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:

to loose the chains of injustice

    and untie the cords of the yoke,

to set the oppressed free

    and break every yoke?

Is it not to share your food with the hungry

    and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—

when you see the naked, to clothe them,

    and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

Isaiah 58:6-7

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