The staff at the Peterborough diocesan office enjoyed a talk on 7th February from James Hayes, founder of the homeless charity ‘The Garden House’. Based within the grounds of Peterborough Cathedral, The Garden House has been in operation since October 2018, and is already making a huge difference within the city.
Patrick Berryman, Assistant Property Officer for the Diocese of Peterborough, organised the event and has also volunteered for the charity, so we asked him about the work of The Garden House and why it is so vital.
Could you explain the work of The Garden House to us?
The Garden House is a support hub for Peterborough’s rough sleepers. Working alongside the Peterborough Winter Night Shelter, it offers a variety of support – welcoming people in and finding out what they need to get housed, working and back living life to the full. This can be as simple as a bus pass so that someone can get to their new job, or as long running as helping someone find permanent accommodation and get through various bureaucratic processes.
The issue of homelessness seems so large and complex – what can people do to help in this matter?
Rough sleeping is a very daunting issue to face up to. It is something that never sits right in this day and age. It can often be difficult to be reminded that there are people in this situation. But it isn’t something we should allow ourselves to shy away from.
For the issue as a whole, supporting the work charities do can go a long way to helping those in need.
Putting pressure on and lobbying both the local and national government is important. More support is needed for people that find themselves rough sleeping as it is a very difficult hole to climb out of alone.
If you see someone rough sleeping, there are various positive actions you can take to support them. Giving money is just one of those ways – but if that is something you don’t feel comfortable with, that is okay. Offering them a hot drink or some food can be an absolute blessing – some people may not have had a drink or something to eat in a long time. If they are sat near a cafe, why not offer to grab them a coffee? If you are about to go into a shop, ask if you can get them a sandwich. If you want to give them something more lasting ,maybe offer to get them a gift card from a food outlet that has them.
One of the most lasting things you can do is chat to them. Rough sleeping can be extremely lonely and sitting in a town centre with hundreds of people walking by – all ignoring you – can be a horrendous ordeal. A good conversation and a friendly chat goes a long way. You can maybe mention any homelessness support you know of that’s available in the area.
Ultimately, showing Gods love in any of these ways can go a long way to helping someone through a very tough situation.