Over the years, a number of churches have been involved in supporting the homeless. These include the Salvation Army who regularly run a breakfast on Monday morning and have provided necessities through the shop, Grays Baptist with their drop-in sessions and clothing, Grays team ministry with support at a coffee morning during the week, City Friends of Christ City Church in their afternoon coffee morning, church of his presence providing the meal on Sunday midday. Then there is the Thurrock Churches Homeless Response Action Group which working with Friends of Essex and London Homeless, a local charity, has been running a meal and meeting session on a Friday evening outside Grays Baptist Church. These are just the churches that I know of, there are probably many more that are unknown to me.
Earlier in the year, Thurrock Council had the opportunity to bid for money to support the work of homeless but they needed input from the community. Here the Thurrock churches homeless response action group stepped forward to provide that community based input and the bid was submitted and was successful. This has resulted in the appointment by the council of Ben who is the Rough Sleeper project officer within the council.
This in turn led to the aspiration to set up a night shelter from January 3rd – March 27th, 2020 and as a result a training session for volunteers was run on the 16th of November with over 30 people attending and 10 churches represented This was hosted by Christ City Church in Grays. The training was delivered by Vanessa who works as a ‘Best Practise & Innovation Officer’ for Housing Justice, a charity working with the homeless. The night shelter that Vanessa works in has been so successful that this year they will not be running a night shelter due to lack of need.
The areas covered by the training included
- An introduction into homelessness in the UK
- Referral process for ‘guests’ wishing to use shelter
- ‘Guests’ vetting process
- Typical evening schedule for shelter
- Volunteering process
- Volunteering options, i.e. cooking, laundry, overnight volunteers
- Mental Health Awareness presentation by Frank Holloway (Mental Health Practitioner Thurrock CCG)
To date four days in the week have been covered by churches offering premises to host the night shelter. Currently Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday all have venues.
A second training session is being held at Grays Baptist Church on Saturday December 14th from 9:30 am to 1:30 pm.