Gershwin at the Passage

 Once again - it was the clients who stole the show at last night's annual meeting of friends and supporters of the Passage centre for the homeless, held in Westminster Hall last night. Following prayers by Bishop Bernard Longley, and reports by director Sr Ellen Flynn DC, and assistant director Andrew Hollingsworth of the centre's past year's events and future plans - the audience was treated to a tremendous performance of songs from Gershwin's Porgy and Bess, directed by Streetwise Opera - a professional theatre company whose members are all homeless. Starting with a languid rendition of Summertime, numbers included: It Ain't Necessarily So, and each member of the troupe took a turn, with Haveroy Williams singing his own composition: 'Desert', before the rousing finale - 'Our Love is Here to Stay' - led by Sr Ellen. After the meeting there was a buffet in the Passage. While the number of rough sleepers has declined slightly in the past year the Passage, which is the largest homeless project in London, has been busier than ever. Services at the day centre include: meals, washing and laundry facilities, hairdressing, chiropody, clothing, and a quiet room. There are also advice services, literacy and computer training and two chaplains. This year 2,368 people came for housing advice. Among new developments has been the completion of the medical facility which will be staffed by full time nurses and doctors and other specialists three days a weeks. Working in partnership with other homeless agencies, The Passage also does outreach work each night in the Westminster area. Every person at the Passage has a different story. Nigel, who looks suntanned from weeks of sleeping in Victoria Street, said he never expected to find himself there. A businessman working in Spain, everything went wrong when he had an accident and broke his back. The company collapsed, he lost his home and is now picking up the pieces. He told ICN: "I on't know what I would have done if I hadn't come here. They have given me hope again." Peter from Devon, ended up on the streets after his marriage broke down. His great concern is to keep in contact with his daughters. "It's not just about having nowhere to live, " he said. They understand that. The people here have been with me through all my problems." The Passage relies on volunteer staff and donations. If you would like to find out more about their work, make a donation or volunteer on one of their projects visit: A gala fundraiser: A Night Under the Stars, takes place on Thursday 13 November at Westminster Central Hall - hosted by Rory Bremner with Roger Moore, Sir Donald Sinden and many more celebrities. A pre-concert reception takes [place at the Banqueting House, Whitehall Palace. To book call 0207 592 1856 or visit: For more information on Streetwise Opera visit:

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