I don’t know how many are homeless in Crawley currently. Possibly 20-30. Some sleep in the parks, in the woods and in shop doorways. They are vulnerable. So perhaps it’s not unsurprising that as often as not we have a few homeless sleeping at the Friary – and I know they also sleep in St John’s churchyard opposite the Friary. It’s very sad. Often drink, drugs, family breakdown and mental health issues lead people to this way of life.
So, what are we as Christians doing about it? Initially and going back several years, the churches provided a temporary night shelter during the severe winter months – the churches called their enterprise ‘The Easter Team.’ It was realised that additional services – mental and physical health, job advise, housing advice was also needed not only during the winter but throughout the year. Thus, Crawley Open House was formed to receive government funding and to provide a permanent shelter for up to 24 people, with a day centre providing the services needed, including resettlement. They are based in Stephenson Way, Three Bridges. It is a professional organisation but aided by many volunteers.
Open House has an outreach team which tries to help those ‘sleeping rough’ and to encourage them to come and receive the help they need. They work with the Borough Council’s Community Wardens.
Easter Team is entirely made up of volunteers and having given birth to Open House, now distributes food parcels and provides a Saturday lunch at St Barnabas church hall just up from Three Bridges. They are always looking for more volunteers. Our own SVP of course helps needy families with food parcels and visits.
Whilst Open House provides lunches Monday to Friday and the Easter Team on Saturdays, the Friary Hall is the Sunday lunch venue. It has been organised for many years by our own Alison Healey and each week a different church team will provide the lunch – Catholics, Anglicans, Baptists, Muslims, etc.
What more can we do? We felt that the generous donations to St Anthony’s Bread could be used to help. We therefore donated from this fund £5,000 to Crawley Open House. They responded by saying that they would put it towards the £250,000 needed for their ‘No 11 Project’, renovating a neighbouring building to turn into a life skills and employability workshop for the homeless. They thank us for our ‘long-standing’ support in so many ways. Street pastors – also a joint churches initiative patrols the streets at night supporting vulnerable people who may be sleeping rough or have had a little too much to drink.
Please let Fr Chris know if you can offer any help.