I WORK as a volunteer team leader at “The Bridge” (the Coventry Jesus Centre’s drop-in), where we see between 35 to 70 people a day. Probably a quarter of these are homeless and over half are “vulnerably housed” – sleeping on a friend’s sofa or in temporary accommodation.
I come from a stable family, brought up in a village. When I joined the volunteer team I had zero experience of problems in inner cities. I thought ‘pot’ was something you put plants in!
Two years on, I understand a little bit about city life and, hopefully, I’m able to be a better friend to people.
We’re set up to help people any way we can. Many use our practical facilities – such as haircuts, phone, laundry, showers, subsidised meals or free clothing. We’re not experts in any field but – as the name “The Bridge” suggests – visitors can also use us as a bridge to local agencies.
Feedback shows we’ve made a lot of practical difference to people’s lives but what most affects our visitors is the Jesus Centre’s unique atmosphere of friendship. Central to this is having a meal together: they know we sit and talk because we want to, not because we’re paid to.
Northampton Jesus Centre
Many people today – especially the marginalised – feel little aspiration that anything can change. We feel our greatest service is bringing hope to those who’ve found themselves trapped in a cycle of problems – either through their own doing or as victims. We seek to prove to them “life doesn’t have to be this way – it can change”.
Relationship breakdown is the most common cause of lives falling apart. A good number of our visitors suffer from mental illness. Finding accommodation is one key to breaking the downward spiral. On the streets there’s often no way to avoid the drugs and drink cycle that turns people into petty crooks and makes them see themselves as losers.
In all I do as a volunteer I’ve never been accused of ‘Bible bashing’. Everyone knows we’re a church – they can see the gospel of Jesus. In that atmosphere, many visitors find it completely natural to ask us to pray for them or stay on for our Bible times or Sunday worship.
Our future vision is to broaden out what we do so that we can offer a one-to-one mentoring role to people if they want it – working alongside to help them overcome problems and better themselves.