The difficulty with homelessness is that it is a circular trap, very difficult to get out of once ensnared. It’s almost impossible to get a home without a job, or a job without a home. Even claiming State Benefits without an address is problematic. The label ‘No Fixed Abode’ is an automatic door-closer for the services and benefits most of us take for granted.
That said there are very many kind hearted and caring people working tirelessly to help, from Soup Kitchens to Drop-In Centres, Winter Night Shelters to Food Banks and the homeless make their way from hand-out to hand-out gradually losing a little more dignity and a little more independence at each pass.
A group of Christians in Dover decided that breaking the cycle might be a better way of solving the problem. Why support homelessness if it could be ended?
Of course there will always be some for whom homelessness amounts to freedom and they will prefer to live that way. For others maybe the thought of change is too frightening to contemplate. Then there are those who stand at the bottom of a ravine, glimpse the daylight and feel that they could never make it.
However for those people who wish that they knew how to climb a seemingly insurmountable barrier, perhaps they could find that they were able to do so with just a little help.
Christians Together in Dover decided that an old and unused section of St. Paul’s Church in Dover could be put to use as a centre for homeless people to access the kind of help they needed.
The old Social Club at the rear of the Victorian built church had crumbled into disrepair and the adjoining anterooms were housing old beer kegs in areas where primary school children had once played and learned in years gone by. The back half of St. Paul’s had seen many changes since it had been built, this latest one may well be the most ambitious of them all.
Approval of the congregation was sought and granted, though with a few understandable misgivings at the outset. Additional security measures were put in place for safeguarding of the local people, the flock at St. Paul’s and the various other groups who regularly meet within the busy Church building or its adjoining hall.
With much goodwill and seemingly endless hard work the old club began to take shape after the water damaged floor was replaced and resurfaced and a few gallons of fresh paint on the walls covered over the grime of years gone by and disuse. Rewired and brightly lit the old bar area is now a light and open room where the smell of coffee pervades the air each weekday morning.
The Dover Outreach Centre opened its doors for the first time on 26th September for just two hours daily as a general ‘drop-in’ for the homeless. This provides sufficient time for the homeless people in the area to become relaxed enough to begin sharing their concerns, their problems, their hopes and dreams.
An appointment system is in operation for services such as showers, washing machines, hairdressing etc. Mental Health Support is in place and Porchlight also operate a surgery at the Centre each Tuesday morning. The ‘all important’ postal address, State Benefits advice and Voluntary Work are also available, this can result in a job reference and with a CV added, paid work can quickly follow. Once in work there is help to find housing and the circle is broken, the trap is sprung.