11 December 2014, The Tablet

Nuns convert former pub into hostel for homeless over Christmas

A former pub will be the setting for a Christmas lunch for 38 homeless people following a nun’s successful fight to turn it into a hostel.

The derelict Rising Sun public house in Northfleet in Kent was spotted by Sr Magdalene Reilly, who realised it would make a perfect staging post for homeless people. Despite objections from local people, she forged ahead with her plan to buy the pub and convert it, and the first residents arrived in September.

Now renamed Mary Ann Doyle House after the co-founder of Sr Magdalene’s order, the Sisters of Mercy, the hostel is home to 12 formerly homeless people and they will be joined by residents from two other hostels run by the nuns in the area for a slap-up Christmas lunch.

“Everyone is looking forward enormously to the lunch,” said Sr Magdalene. “We were all very disappointed when we arrived to find the bar had already gone, but there’s still a lot of space and I’m sure we’ll be having a very happy day.

“Homelessness is a very sad experience at any time of the year, but it’s especially sad at Christmas. I always felt terrible when people phoned up asking for a bed for someone who was homeless and we didn’t have enough, so it’s marvellous to have more now we have the new hostel opened.

“There were a lot of objections to the plans to open a hostel here, but I hope the local people are much happier now, and we’re planning to open a club for the elderly in the new year, which will help integrate us into the surrounding community,” she said.

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