The Paradox of Poverty

For almost a decade, the London Jesus Centre has delivered services and support for thousands of homeless and vulnerably housed people in London. Typically, we encounter those who find themselves trapped in an all-too-familiar paradox: alone in one of the busiest cities in the world and poor in one of the wealthiest places on earth.

On an average day, we will work with up to 50 people who sleep out on the streets of Westminster. Some are seeking asylum from war-torn countries, others refuge from broken homes. Some have banked on jobs that never materialized and others have sold their dreams to feed an addiction they could not defeat. Everyone is trying to survive.

Volunteers from around the world bring expertise and unprofessional charm to the soup kitchens. Architects build relationships with alcoholics and retired school teachers learn how to play chess with ex-offenders.

Some have banked on jobs that never materialized and others have sold their dreams to feed an addiction they could not defeat. Everyone is trying to survive.

At first glance, most of what we do looks and feels unspectacular. There are hungry stomachs to feed, dirty socks to wash, and housing applications to complete. But in the midst of the chaos and complex need, there is an atmosphere of genuine friendship. Often, something like joy interrupts the routine of rapid response. Laughter and gratitude envelop conversations and, at the end of the day, people remember your name.

When people lose the security of four walls and a roof over their head, they tend to create community wherever they can. This is the paradox of poverty – somehow strength is always perfected in weakness. I have been astonished by the resourcefulness and selfless care of our clients who look out for one another daily and seek to cover rather than exploit each other’s weakness. The paradox of poverty is a reminder that we badly need each other. Our modern world that boasts in self-sufficiency and individual progress has much to learn from the poor.


Written by Jon-Jon Hilton, Day Centre Manager at the Welcome Project.
Published 20th March 2018 with tags: homelessness London

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