‘Opening our doors to the homeless can change lives’ – Church column 

Volunteer Andrew Malbon (left) serves food to guests in St Judes Church, Southsea, as part of Open Church
Volunteer Andrew Malbon (left) serves food to guests in St Judes Church, Southsea, as part of Open Church

By the Rev Adam Denley, curate of St Jude’s Church, Southsea

It is such a privilege to be able to open up our churches and welcome in those who are 

homeless.

When I saw guests coming into St Jude’s Church the other day as snow was falling outside, I was even more glad that we’d started this Open Church project.

This is an eight-week project, in which churches around Portsmouth open their buildings to the homeless every night in the coldest months of the year.

Seven churches are taking it in turns to host vulnerable people each night from January until March.

We welcome them with hot drinks, the chance to chat with our volunteers and play board games. Then our ace team of caterers swing into action, providing them with a three-course meal.

We set up camp beds, duvets and pillows in one of our halls, giving them the chance of a good night’s sleep in a warm building. And in the morning, another team of volunteers give them a decent breakfast.

It’s the second year we’ve done this – last winter the same churches ran a similar four-week pilot project for a smaller group of rough sleepers and vulnerable people.

Getting to know their stories has been fascinating.

Often their circumstances are complicated, and might involve relationship breakdowns, mental health issues and problems with renting homes. Some have been on the streets for years and some are battling addictions.

Last year, we were able to help some of them to change their lives for the better. Some were reunited with their families, some were given employment opportunities, and one pregnant woman was helped into temporary accommodation.

Hopefully we can help this year’s group in a similar way.

Since launching the project, we’ve been inundated with offers of help, which is incredible to see.

We’ve trained 260 volunteers from all seven churches, so we have enough people helping at the moment. But we’re happy to collect names of people who could help next winter.

Our project runs from January 7 to March 4, and we’re praying that as our new friends experience the love of God, that might draw them deeper into our church communities.

And I’m hoping that may empower some of them to be willing to engage with the support and help they need.

St Jude’s Church is in Kent Road, Southsea.

For more information call (023) 9275 0442 or visit sjs.church.