A Christian charity has hosted a street party for the homeless directly beneath Stratford’s upmarket rooftop bar.
The Stratford Centre is a shopping mall during the day. After business hours, skate boarders take over for a while and homeless people use the floorspace as a night shelter. Meanwhile on the top floor cocktails are shaken in style.
On Friday 24 November, the Christian Community of London (CCL), based in Newham, set up a stall at the centre’s entrance with donated clothes, shoes, food and hot drinks.
For around a year, the group’s charitable activity has alternated between Charing Cross and Stratford. On this occasion they were there from 7pm till late. The items are provided voluntarily by church members. “We would welcome anyone who would like to help us spread the Christmas spirit!,” a lady from CCL explained.
The Stratford centre is also the home of one of the leading rooftop bars, Roof East. Drinking cocktails with a view of the city’s landmarks, used to mean going to West End venues such as ME London’s Radio Bar on the Strand. Now Roof East has brought luxury tippling to East London, along with an open air cinema and an overview of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic park.
Despite their differences, the rooftop party and the charity posse both shared an interest in keeping warm!
Roof East has converted some of its space into igloos, recommending that customers “warm up those rosy noses with an Eskimo kiss with a loved one as you take in the twinkling skyline of London perched upon the Stratford summit”.
Back on ground level, one of the homeless guys expressed his concern that one day soon they will lock the doors of the mall to prevent overnight use of the public space.
He said: “For now, I know we’re all right but I sleep with one eye open. Look around you – Stratford wasn’t always like this, they’re changing everything! And they’re going to get rid of us.”
This young man did not want to disclose how he ended up sleeping rough; he merely said “it’s a free country, I have every right to be here… I belong here”.