Steve Chalke

Steve Chalke asks people to buy Oyster travel cards for the homeless

A central London church, run by Steve Chalke, announced this week that they were launching an appeal to help the homeless by providing them with Oyster travel cards to offer them some respite from the cold.

The congregation at Oasis Waterloo were told on Sunday that, with the worsening temperatures, this was a way their actions could match their faith.

The cards allow people to top-up their travel money and tap through barriers on London's public transport - on buses you can only use an Oyster card or contactless card and cash is no longer an option. 

Steve Chalke, a well-known speaker at Christian events and founder of Oasis' charitable work, told Premier that the idea came to him when preparing a sermon on the time Jesus tells Peter to drop his fishing nets and follow him (in Matthew 4).

Chalke said: "I talked about the fact that what we do with some bits of the Bible is we turn them into metaphors when actually they're literal...in this case Jesus actually asks Peter to follow him and we turn it back into 'Well, stay the same as you are, carry on life as it is and just believe these things' when in actual fact this is about being faithful, showing an allegiance, a loyalty, a change of lifestyle, a change of habits, a change of use of resources and money.

"I knew that the weather was going to get cold...I said 'How about we do something to get people off the streets?' There are estimated to be by the London's mayor's office about between 2,500 and 3,000 people sleeping rough in doorways - you can't get them all into churches and other community buildings.

"With the cold coming in, some of them will freeze to death. In fact, I know of one man who's frozen to death on the street near here since Christmas."

The church are encouraging people to donate £20. The first £10 will go directly toward purchasing an Oyster card with adequate credit for rides on public transport and the second to help the longer-term response to homelessness.

Chalke explained: "They can ride on the night bus, they can sit in the warm, they can get out of the bitter cold".

He added another advantage for the wider community was the burden on state resources: "We're also keeping endless cases out of our A&E's in the already stretched and strained NHS system".

The church leader joked that they had already taken the offering when they announced the plan but the church then gave an extra £2,000 and many people signed up to the team who will give out the Oyster cards.

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