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What Is Quaker Homeless Action (QHA)?

Quaker Homeless Action is a national charity run by a volunteer Council of Trustees. The main objective of Quaker Homeless Action is to alleviate the poverty and distress of homeless people in the UK.

QHA is a small and flexible organization that focuses on projects that are not funded by other organisations. The majority of funding for the work of Quaker Homeless Action comes from donations from Quakers. The charity is one example of Quaker 'hands-on' practical help in Britain today.
History of Quaker Homeless Action

Quaker Homeless Action was established in the mid-1960's when some of the members of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in London recognised a need to offer a Christmas soup run to provide food and friendship to homeless people when many other services in Central London were closed. This initial project developed into the Quaker Open Christmas, now the Quaker Christmas Shelter, which provides beds as well as food and friendship over the Christmas period.
beds 2008 The Quaker Christmas Shelter has been run in three main locations, at Blackfriars Church (to 2004), at Whitechapel Mission (2005), and at the Union Chapel (from 2007 to the present). Held from 23rd to 30th December, it is staffed by volunteers.
Currently, the Quaker Christmas Shelter is run in close cooperation with the Margins Project, at The Union Chapel, Highbury Corner, Islington. The Margins Project is a year-round service for the homeless and other marginalized people at Union Chapel, which is a Congregationalist Church as well as a famous performance space. QHA utilize the part of the building otherwise occupied by the Margins Project for the week of the Quaker Christmas Shelter. QHA also work closely with The Pilion Trust, which provides professional outreach workers for those with drug and/or alcohol addictions and/or mental health needs at the Quaker Christmas Shelter.
library van In 1999 Quaker Homeless Action established the Quaker Mobile Library in London, as a service to provide books and friendship to people who are excluded from public libraries (usually because they have 'no fixed abode'). The library is housed in a VW Crafter long wheelbase van that has shelves lining the interior to hold the books. The van is kept at Hammersmith Quaker Meeting in a dedicated spot. More than 30 volunteers work on the Quaker Mobile Library Project, which visits different rounds of day centres three days each week (with multiple rounds on Saturday).
Quaker Homeless Action runs other projects as well. Further information about them is available on other pages of this website.
Who are the Quakers?

The Religious Society of Friends, commonly known as 'Quakers' is a Christian Sect begun in England in 1652. George Fox is commonly known as the 'founder' of Quakerism, although many people interested in religious reform at the time were involved in founding the Religious Society of Friends, including Isaac Pennington, Margaret Fell, and James Naylor.

Over the intervening 350 years, many facets of the Quaker belief structure have been adopted by the more mainstream churches. For example, the belief that each individual can access God directly, as opposed to having access exclusively through a Priest, is no longer considered radical. Nevertheless, Quakers often still hold a radical set of religious views. Prime among them is that the church is comprised of the Priesthood of all Believers (men and women equally) and all Members are expected to uphold the Meetings for Worship by either quietly waiting for God or speaking directly to the others gathered, if very moved to do so (this the origin of the name Quaker, as the original Friends would often 'Quake' before being moved to speak).

As a radical religious group, Quakers have been involved in many major societal reforms, including the abolition of the slave trade, both in United Kingdom and in the United States, where Quakers were often involved in the Underground Railroad. Another popular example is the Quaker Elizabeth Fry, who concentrated on prison reform. Her work is now celebrated by having her likeness on the 5 banknote.

These are only two examples of the many historical societal reforms in which Quakers have been involved. Today, this work continues in projects as diverse as the Ecumenical Accompaniers in Palestine, the foundation of the Circles of Support and Accountability for ex-sex offenders in the UK, Peace and Community Building in South Africa, and the provision of Micro-Credits for marginalized women in London to set up their own businesses. The projects run by Quaker Homeless Action is part of that wider Quaker work.

If you would like more information on the Quaker Faith or Faith in Action, please visit the national website of the Religious Society of Friends in Britain at BYM. For more about Quaker's radical history, try the fascinating Quaker Tapestry site. For opportunities to learn about Quakers, visit the website of the Woodbrooke Quaker Study College.