Leamington homelessness festival: how the churches can provide support

Prof Aidan Halligan with the Rev Christopher Wilson of All Saints' church and two Leamington homeless men.
Prof Aidan Halligan with the Rev Christopher Wilson of All Saints' church and two Leamington homeless men.

A two-month festival concentrating on the issues surrounding homelessness continues in Leamington with a training day for church staff and volunteers on Saturday (April 5).

Following a talk last week by former Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England Professor Aidan Halligan on improving the health of the poorest in society, the Left Out In The Cold festival is on Saturday bringing together church communities in and around Leamington to spend a day finding out how they can support the vulnerable people who may turn to them for help.

The course will be led by Jonathan Chilvers, leader of the Way Ahead project at the Salvation Army in Leamington, who says he organised the event because, for years, people from churches in the area have been seeking his advice for what to do when people who are homeless or struggling with addiction knock on the church door.

He said: “The day is for those in the church who don’t know where to start or what boundaries to put in place which enable them to be welcoming and loving, but stay safe at the same time.

“Sometimes people can be very chaotic and it may seem that you have to treat them differently - but the first stage is always to treat anyone with dignity and respect and if they smell or talk in a weird way, just ride through it.”

Mr Chilvers will be providing a small summary of agencies churches can refer people. He said: “The idea is for churches to recognise that their role is to be the church that they are. Over time, if they are building a relationship with somebody, then they might be able to plunge them into expert services.

“But most of the time, people don’t need experts. They may need support to help them go to appointments or they may be lonely.”

Tomorrow’s course is for church groups because in Mr Chilvers’ experience, it is the churches that vulnerable people in Leamington turn to the most. But he would welcome other faith groups to get in touch if they feel they may be able to offer support.

There may still be places left on Saturday’s course, which takes place at the Salvation Army in Chapel Street from 9.30am to 3pm. To find out more, call Mr Chilvers on 883613.

To find out more about the Left Out In The Cold festival, which continues until May 1, visit allsaintschurchleamington.org.uk