Inverness Shelter for the Homeless
A pilot scheme last Winter saw Inverness churches working alongside the Bethany Christian Trust and local statutory agencies to provide overnight accommodation and meals for the homeless. Vivian Roden gives an update report.
Following on from last February’s two week Inverness Shelter Pilot Project in partnership with the Bethany Christian Trust, and the evaluation Conference in March, we’re going to try to do it again next winter – but for longer!
Since April, the Church of Scotland’s Presbytery of Inverness Church & Community Committee has hosted three meetings of church representatives from around 22 local congregations drawn from different church denominations (many thanks to the Salvation Army for providing their Hall for the last meeting – and for the tea and biscuits!) and the upshot was agreement to try to bring about a Care Shelter from 7 December 2009 to the morning of 1 March 2010. [Ed note: This included some of the coldest nights for many years; - 17C]
Inverness Presbytery took into consideration the success and value to the community of last year’s Inverness Shelter Pilot Project and has urged congregations to consider ways of contributing to this year’s Care Shelter – to be run again by the Bethany Christian Trust in partnership with local churches.
Please begin by engaging in prayerful consideration of how best to enable practical support for a project which shows the Kingdom of Christ to the homeless in Inverness by demonstrating His love in tangible terms. We need all the prayer we can get!
The Presbytery also commended the Church & Community Committee’s efforts in working with others from different denominations on ventures such as this.
We appreciate that churches may already have existing commitments, but would appeal to all churches within walking distance of the city centre to consider, if at all possible, providing church hall accommodation to keep rough sleepers off the street in the coldest months of the winter.
If this is really not an option, could city centre churches put together a catering team or do some fundraising? The significance of “walking distance of the city centre” (and we’re probably looking at about a 2 mile radius here) is that because this is going to be a much larger undertaking this year, it’s not going to be possible to run a Breakfast Club, so the service users will be walking back to the city centre after a continental breakfast in the Shelter.
Getting all the accommodation, catering and funds in place is obviously going to be a major challenge, and we really are relying on the churches to make this project happen! Think your church is too far away from the city centre to help? Not at all. If you were able to put together a catering team or help with fundraising, we’d love to hear from you.
And we’ve already had some offers of help. We are very grateful to Captain James Elliot for generously provisionally offering the Salvation Army Hall for all 13 Friday nights of the project; the to the Free North Church who have also very kindly agreed to the Madras Street Hall being used again – as well as to the Black Isle Volunteers (see what we mean by out of town churches being able to help!) who are willing to take part on the catering side again. We are very grateful to them all.
We need to have the venues and catering teams in place by the beginning of October at the very latest, to give Bethany time to recruit and train the two Project Workers and two Project Leaders they will be employing locally to professionally run the Shelter.
We are also very pleased – and relieved! - to have Bob Glover, the Presbytery Treasurer (ably assisted by Alex Hutcheson from the Church & Community Committee) in charge of fundraising, and other offers of help have come from Margaret Ross, the Salvation Army’s Divisional Manager in Aberdeen who is willing to run Food Hygiene Classes for catering teams who don’t have the necessary certification – and from Chris and Faith Ougham of Hilton Church who are willing to run (uncertificated) first aid courses for volunteers and to act as overnight reserves – and, once again, we are very grateful to all of them.
But we need more help! If you can help with church hall accommodation, or catering, please contact:
Tel. 01808 511 355 or 07887 704 915 or
If you can help with fundraising, or wish to make a personal donation, please contact:
Tel. 01463 793926 or
Let’s try together to help homeless people this winter.
Ed footnote: In a covering e-mail Vivian says:
Dear Fellow Christian
Proposed Care Shelter for next winter
In business and worldly terms - it's bonkers. Far too high a cost for too few people, given that the final agreement of the number of genuine rough sleepers who used the Shelter was 7 or 8. I think it's probably also difficult for statutory bodies and established voluntary sector homelessness organisations to justify this too - especially in these times of financial restrictions. They have to use the limited resources at their disposal for the benefit of the greatest number of people in need of their services.
But from the churches' point of view, we are charged by Christ Himself, to help those we meet who are in need - whatever the circumstances, or the reasons behind that need. The lessons Jesus taught us from the Good Samaritan to the Prodigal Son have to be put into action - showing Christ's love and care for all his people in a practical way, whoever they are and however they got to their present situation.
It's not about the churches coming in to tell the statutory agencies and homelessness professionals what to do, or how to do their jobs, or presuming we know the answers to the complex and diverse problems surrounding homelessness, and especially rough sleeping. The churches don't pretend to have the answers - we just see the consequences and try to help.
And it's certainly not about the churches doing this to feel good about ourselves - the prospect of putting in place all the church hall accommodation, catering and fundraising necessary to bring this about is truly the stuff of nightmares! We need lots of prayer.
It is about the churches plugging gaps in provision (which are there because hard decisions on the best use of resources have had to be made by the statutory bodies) where we can, and where our resources allow - and about the churches working with all the other agencies involved to try to make the winter a safer place for rough sleepers.
And, ultimately, it is about us in the churches being able to answer Christ, Yes, we saw you homeless, and we tried to help.
Let's not underestimate God, or try to limit His power. We in the churches are His agents, ours the hands to do His work. As Christians we submit ourselves to the will of God and if it doesn't go ahead, will accept that it was not His will for this project to happen, but with God nothing is impossible - certainly not finding the means to make the Care Shelter happen! Let's do this in His Name! And prayerfully commit the outcome to His will and purpose.
Bob and I will look forward to hearing from you!
With kind regards.