13 million people live below the poverty line in the UK accoring to the Trussell Trust. Churches and cathedrals around England are involved in a diverse range of projects addressing issues associated with, and providing services to support, those in poverty as well as those who are homeless. In 2013, the Church Urban Fund published statistics showing that 54% of Anglican parishes run at least one organised activity to address a social need in their area including loneliness, homelessness, debt, low income, unemployment or family breakdown.
Some places of worship have established associated centres (such as The Connection at St Martin-in the Fields or the Booth Centre at Manchester cathedral), others send volunteers out on city centre soup runs, whilst other churches run services directly from their church buildings such as winter night shelters and food banks.
Some starting points for establishing a foodbank or night shelter in your church building are provided below.
Foodbanks provide a minimum of three days emergency food and support to people experiencing crisis including those affected by benefit delay, low income, homelessness, debt and unemployment. Most foodbanks in the UK are coordinated by the UK’s only foodbank network, The Trussell Trust.
Since 2004 the Trust has launched over 400 foodbanks nationwide, over half within the last two years, and a good number have been with churches. The Trust has recorded a 170% increase in recipients since 2012 and last year fed almost 350,000.
Setting up a foodbank in a church is quite straightforward. Things to consider regarding your church building are access and space requirements. For detailed advice visit the Trussell Trust website.
See also advice for churches from Ecclesiastical Insurance about running food banks, click here.
Church and Community Night Shelters
By virtue of the shelter they offer, and a supply of potential volunteers, church buildings have proved well suited to use as temporary winter night shelters for the homeless. Often churches pool their resources during winter months in order to provide food and accommodation, or volunteers, on a rotational basis.
If your church is interested in getting involved you will need to give thought to ease of access, bathroom availability and available space. Further advice is available from Housing Justice, the national voice of Christian action to prevent homelessness and bad housing. Their ‘Shelter in a Pack’ (details on their website) outlines steps from concept through to delivery with information on project groups, budget and what to check such as public liability insurance, hygiene certificates and planning permission.
Ecclesiastical Insturance also has some helpful notes, here.
Other sources of information: