Every year at Stoneygate Baptist Church we choose a 'charity of the year', and for 2018/19 it is The Bridge Leicester, which supports people "from homelessness to hope". As well as providing at least one meal a day for six days a week, and offering clothing and temporary accomodation, The Bridge runs a mentoring project which pairs homeless or vulnerably-housed adults with volunteer mentors, who provide a listening ear and accompany their mentees as they work towards achieving their goals, improving confidence and reducing social isolation in the process.
Seven years ago I spent a month volunteering three days a week at a drop-in centre for homeless and vulnerably-housed people in Birmingham city centre. It only gave me a tiny glimpse into the realty of life for those living on the street or in temporary accomodation, but it did show me the vital importance of organisations like The Bridge, and the value of offering friendship as well as meeting practical needs. We all need to be seen and heard, to have activities and relationships that give our lives structure and meaning, and places like The Bridge provide that for people who are often cast adfrift.
There are loads of ways you can support The Bridge directly, from volunteering to donating to buying a cup of coffee from Ernie, the converted milk float who has a regular spot in Victoria Park and visits a number of the city's festivals. And of course you can support our fundraising efforts at SBC. We held a successful cream tea earlier in the year, and there are plans brewing for another event next year, so watch this space for more information. You can also take away a small box to fill with spare change, then bring it back when it's full. Last year we discovered that the little boxes can hold an impressive £30 in 20ps!
If you've not visited The Bridge's website yet, I highly recommend that you do. There is more information about what they do and how you can get involved, as well as video testimonies from some of those who have visited The Bridge. It's really important to hear people's stories, to give them the dignity of being recognised, and to try and understand a little of who they are and what they have experienced, so do make time to watch some of those.