By JOHN WARREN
For several years this Parish has helped to run the Bromley Homeless Shelter, providing an evening meal, a safe warm bed overnight, and breakfast, for the homeless in Bromley during the winter months. Our parishioners have cooked and stayed with the homeless overnight, and a team have provided clean bed-linen every week; and you have sponsored the Shelter financially, so thank you all very much for all you have done.
But the situation for homeless people is getting worse, not just in winter but every month of the year, so we considered how to prevent people from becoming homeless in the first place. Now many people become homeless because their relationships break down. Younger people are forced to leave the family home and end up sofa-surfing. Others renting a home may be evicted at short notice with no chance of finding alternative rentable housing. We could not see how we could work to prevent such situations.
But some become homeless because they can’t make ends meet, fall into spiralling debt, and eventually lose their home because they cannot meet their financial obligations. So we thought that maybe we could help them in some way.
Christians Against Poverty (CAP) is a charity which has been set up specifically to help people in debt fix their financial problems; the charity sets up payment plans with the creditors, and then works with the people in debt until they have become debt-free. The planning and legal work is done at their head office in Bradford, but the people they help need local contacts to keep a friendly eye on their progress and provide moral support if needed; these volunteers normally come from local churches. So St Joseph’s and four other Christian churches in Bromley have come together to set up and operate the CAP Bromley Partnership Debt Help Centre.
A recent information meeting for those who might be willing and able to help with this work went well. Eight parishioners from St Joseph’s attended and heard enlightening presentations from Derek Holl (Project Leader) and Martin Pointing (Debt Centre Manager).
There was a good turn-out; not all can volunteer as “befrienders”, but, as the project matures and more clients need help, it would be great if more parishioners from St Joseph’s would be willing and able to help those less fortunate than themselves. Often this work is done out of sight of the Parish, so these occasional events are important to remind us all that there are many people in our neighbourhood who are among the most deprived in the country, and who desperately need our help.
The next steps are for those who volunteer to act as befrienders to be checked and trained for the work. Checks are being carried out now, and training sessions will be notified soon. A significant event is the public launch of the Debt Centre in Bromley on 7th June. This event is by invitation, and aims to make sure that those in Bromley who have a need to know about the Debt Centre, or who may be able to help with funding, can meet to hear how it will work. About 60 people and organisations have been invited so far, and more are expected.
If parishioners want to find out more about the work of CAP, the easiest thing to do is to visit the web-site. The contacts for St Joseph’s are John Warren (07719 051100), and Steven Leatham (07956 631584), and parishioners are urged to contact either one to discuss the opportunities.