Volunteers who open the doors of their church to the homeless say they provide support to those who fall through the cracks.

St James Church, in New Barnet, is one of 20 across the borough that opens its doors to become a homeless shelter for one night a week during winter.

On Friday evenings, 15 people referred to the church from Homeless Action in Barnet get a meal and bed down in the east Barnet Road building.

Ian Mclaren, from St James, co-ordinates more than 40 volunteers from the church to help run the shelter once a week.

He said: “We have been taking part in this scheme for about three years and it has been very successful.

“The main reason I do it is out of empathy for people who do not have what I have and to support them when they have fallen on hard times.

“It very satisfying to know you have helped someone when they needed it. Over the past few years there has been a greater call for the shelter.”

Two or three volunteers also stay in the church to watch over the others during the night.

Each of the people using the church shelter must be registered with Homeless Action in Barnet and must produce a ticket in order to stay at the church for the evening.

Mike Macey, warden of the church said: “This is just one of the many things we do as a church as part of our outreach to the community.

“It is important we are there for people who cannot get help anywhere else and may have fallen through the cracks of society.”

As part of a rota system with the other 20 churches there is a shelter available to homeless people each night of the week.