Our Social Action Team Leader, Fay Philp, gives us an update on the work of Pilgrim Hearts Trust…
Pilgrim Hearts is a local charity which has been running for 20 years this year. The purpose is to support those on the edge of society in various ways.
The charity was set up by David and Elaine Chalmers Brown and is supported by three trustees and someone who puts together funding bids and grant applications. The work done is funded purely by donations and grants.
The main part of the work done by Pilgrim Hearts is the winter Night Shelter. This has now run for five years in Bracknell and provides a warm bed, a hot meal and breakfast for those who otherwise would be sleeping rough. The shelter opens at the beginning of December and runs through till the end of March. On average there are between fifteen and twenty people each night. The shelter is a joint venture between seven churches in the town. Each church takes a night (the same one each week). Beds and sleeping bags are provided by Pilgrim Hearts, but food is provided by the church. Churches have a coordinator who will usually find their own volunteers (training is provided by PH) and a manager is present each night. The manager is the only paid position.
Last winter we started a Night Shelter in Wokingham and this was run in the same way as Bracknell.
Often housing is found for our guests and Storehouse is key to them having furniture for this.
EBC play a large part in the work of Pilgrim Hearts. Storehouse is known to all our guests and we have furnished, or part furnished many homes for these guys. I am also one of the trustees and this gives many opportunities to get to know about and therefore become involved in other aspects of the work done by the charity.
In normal circumstances, Pilgrim Hearts run a Drop In twice a week on a Monday and Thursday lunchtime at St Andrews Church. This is open to anyone who needs a lunch, a chat to friends and advice or support with something. On a Monday, food is provided by volunteers and on a Thursday, food is provided by a pub in Warfield. There is also an opportunity at the Drop In to sign post people to services they need (CAP, New Hope, Storehouse etc). Clothes and shoes that have been donated are available at the Drop In for those that need them.
On a Tuesday at lunchtime, we have medics at EBC who provide medical support for people who use the night Shelter and Drop In. There is a GP and a prescription nurse and most basic needs can be met, or referrals made. This service was run at St Andrews and then moved before starting up at EBC. The medics also provide this service every two weeks at one of the Night Shelter venues. This service came about from someone key in Berkshire Healthcare attending meetings at EBC. From conversations with her, the medics service was set up.
The medical support is great as these guys wouldn’t easily be able to get this from a GP surgery. There is however a real need for a dentist and a podiatrist. Dental treatment would be much more difficult due to the equipment needed, but in an ideal situation a surgery could offer their services once a month.
What happens next is very much dependent on Coronavirus guidelines. What is clear is that the Night Shelter will not be able to run in the usual way this year. Most of our guests have been housed, but there are some that would still rely on the shelter. We also expect some new people who are homeless due to redundancy and therefore not being able to pay their rent or mortgage, leading to them losing their home. There will also be people who are homeless because of relationship break ups which are a consequence of lockdown. The council will do their best to house these people, but not all will be homed.
We are waiting for clear guidelines still, but it seems the way for this year is to find one building that can be used safely for the duration of the shelter.
Volunteers may also be a challenge this year as many of our volunteers are older and therefore may be shielding. Some will be unsure about volunteering because of the lifestyle many of our guests have. Once we know what is happening with a venue for the shelter, we may have to start recruiting new volunteers.
The Drop In which is closed at the moment because we cannot open St Andrews Church, may be relocated to another church. Once safety measures are in place, this would enable us to open up again.
What Can People Do?
Consider volunteering. This can be to cook food, wash bedding, come and chat to people.
If you know of a building that might be suitable for us to use, let us know.
We are working with Bracknell Forest to set up a befriending scheme. If you think you could help with this, let us know.
Pray for the work that goes on and for the work on hold at the moment due to Covid. Pray for safety for our guys and the volunteers still involved with them. This is a faith based charity and everything we do should reflect that.