A church fulfilling a need to get homeless people off the streets in their community ten years ago evolved into a support services charity which is still operating today.
In 2008 around 40 vulnerable people began to frequent the garden of St Peter’s Church in Kingston upon Thames. Often homeless or sofa-surfing, these people gathered outside the church to find refuge. The vicar and the congregation decided to invite these people to a weekly meal, as well as turning their church hall into a temporary winter night shelter.
As the church got to know their homeless guests, they soon realised that a solution consisted of more than providing a roof over their heads.
These vulnerable people needed a caring community to get back on their feet, and so the church created the Joel Community Trust in 2010. In 2016 and now named Joel Community Services, the charity had transformed the church hall into accommodation for 14 guests. This was added to in 2017 with 3 apartments for guests taking their last steps at the centre.
John, a former Royal-Marine Staff Sergeant, was one of the guests who benefited from Joel Community Services.
Suffering from combat post-traumatic stress disorder, John found his life breaking down around him with relationship, financial and housing issues exasperating his condition.
After arriving in 2016 he says of his experience there: “Suddenly there was an end to the isolation – the biggest thing was being part of the Joel Community, plus I had a decent bed and began to get into a regular eating and sleeping pattern. There was no-one that I didn’t get on with. We actually had a laugh and, suddenly, I had a concrete foundation under my feet.”
In 2018 Joel Community Services came to Allchurches Trust with a project to build an office.
The space will enable administration to take place away from the church where sensitive topics could be overheard. The space will also enable more effective daily running of the shelter, leading to potentially increased funding for future projects and facilities, benefitting the most vulnerable people in society.