Churches in Bradford join together to host homeless
A PILOT project allowing homeless people to sleep inside local churches has grown to include hundreds of volunteers and the involvement of a staggering 53 churches.
The Inn Churches project was tried for the first time last year with just a handful of local congregations in Bradford - all opening their doors to rough sleepers through February.
Now the scheme is to be repeated this winter, starting on Wednesday, December 1, for three months with a vastly increased team across the city. Shipley will also see its own launch of the project there in the New Year.
Shawna Splawn is part of the team who has been helping to communicate and co-ordinate the project.
She said: "What started out very small but was so exciting last year has just mushroomed. I am not sure how word got out but it has grown so much. What is inspiring is the belivers are seeing this as a great opportunity to live out the Gospel and I am inspired by the overwhelming response of this city.
"Bradford ticks so many boxes that are not good with poverty and crime and so on but there are people scattered over this city, who are often not especially visible, who are supporting people in need and giving of their services."
The scale of the operation means that for seven nights a week through the winter homeless people will be fed and given a chance to wash and change their clothes, sleep in warm and safe surroundings and have breakfast in the morning.
A team of 260 volunteers have made it possible - not counting those who have donated food from the proceeds of harvest festivals and Christmas fairs, and gifts from big-hearted local companies.
Donations of hats, hot water bottles, and sleeping bags have come from across the city and beyond as Bradford has got behind this effort to look after its most vulnerable citizens.
Last year 56 individuals were cared for and through the work of Juli Thompson, Inn Churches' co-ordinator, half of them were found accommodation long after the project packed up for the Spring.
"Juli's work has been so crucial in all this. She is the face people know and she has been key," said Shawna.
Final figures for last year's homeless guests showed that of 56, a total of 36 had been sleeping on the streets, in doorways, garages, squats on the night before their first time of accessing the project.
They were referred by a range of agencies working in the city and when they arrived at the church 98 per cent of them were in poor health and many had addiction or mental health issues.
Comments from homeless people experiencing the church hospitality last year included: "Having travelled to many hostels in the UK and Ireland this was a new, clean and totally refreshing exerience for me. Totally decent folk."
Another lady said: "I had a really nice time. Everyone was so kind, all speaking to each other without any nastiness whatsoever. It was a really nice change for me. I really enjoyed myself. "
One man said simply: "It is great to wake up warm and dry."
Each of the host nine churches will have eight beds - a number that may increase if the need is there. Many different churches are involved with no one denomination being in charge of the operation.
Shawna said: "Everyone has to own their own part. Every participating church takes responsibility for their own set up."
The Rev Canon Sam Randall said: "This project has captured the heart of many across the city. It is powerful evidence of what can happen when "the church" comes together to work as one, in service to the poor."
This story is replicated from the Bradford Media Hub website and was written by Marianne Clough.
The Inn Churches project was covered in the mainstream local press:
Telegraph and Argus / Yorkshire Post