In the autumn of 2016, Whitstable’s Street/Beach Pastors, who are sponsored by Churches Together in Whitstable, reported a worrying increase in the number of homeless in our town sleeping in shop doorways and in shelters and under beach huts along our waterfront. This prompted a team from St John’s Methodist, Riverside Church and Whitstable URC to visit The Gap Project for rough sleepers in Broadstairs.
We were able to equip available space at St John’s Methodist Church in Whitstable with washing machines and tumble dryers to create a laundry and they refurbished a shower room which, when added to the existing catering facilities, made an attractive walk in for rough sleepers and sofa surfers.
Churches Together in Whitstable quickly agreed to support this initiative, volunteers from member churches and the local community signed up, were trained and DBS checked, and Haven was up and running every Monday afternoon by November 2016. After operating successfully throughout 2017 the CTiW Haven Project was registered as a charity in March 2018. Haven could then apply to the National Lottery Community Fund which made a grant in August 2018 towards the cost of opening on a second afternoon. Haven was also able to secure matching funding from local individuals many of whom have become Friends of Haven and now give monthly by standing order. Others, including local businesses, make gifts in kind and/or volunteer giving precious time to Haven which has become a community project demonstrating both outreach and social inclusion.
Haven is now open three afternoons each week, the extra day thanks to a generous grant from World Mission Agency – Winners Chapel International. Haven was also able to attract matching funding for this grant, although the grant itself was unconditional and towards core costs. The latter comprise mainly rent and the cost of employing two part time staff to manage Haven.
Besides generous giving by Friends of Haven, volunteers now give 1,500+ hours of valuable time per annum. Haven also works closely with Canterbury City Council (CCC), Canterbury Food Bank, Catching Lives and Porchlight signposting guests to these and to other organisations for help with benefits, debt, health and housing needs. We offer an accommodation address to guests and supervised use of a PC for online applications.
This has led to a reduction in the number of local rough sleepers as CCC has responded positively sending a Housing Officer to Haven regularly and finding accommodation. However, guests who have been used to street life still need help when they are housed as they have to take some budgetary responsibility and they miss the social contact of living in the open. Consequently, Haven remains an important venue for them even after they have been housed.
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registered as a charity number 1177700