Peace House & Carriers of Hope: Walking with the Crucified
St. Joseph’s Province provides support for initiatives that expose and resist misuses of power and that deliver practical responses to relieving the effects of poverty and exclusion. This reflects our belief that the death of Jesus resulted from confrontation with systems that oppress and marginalize, and that His Resurrection gives us hope. Here is a report on visits which Passionist development worker Paschal Somers recently made to some of the projects involved:
Just a short walking distance from the Passionist Administrative Office near the centre of Coventry are two organisations, Peace House and Carriers of Hope, which have benefitted in recent years by receiving grants from St. Joseph’s Province. Both groups ‘fit the bill’ when it comes to last year’s Chapter resolution of ‘Welcoming the stranger’ as both provide different services to asylum seekers and refugees.
Peace House is a night shelter for destitute asylum seekers. It is ably coordinated by Beth Ash, who welcomed me when I visited there in March. As she showed me around the premises, Beth explained that the shelter has a capacity for twenty-one guests (fifteen males and six females) and that it has been accommodating that number for some months now.
When asked about the greatest challenges facing the shelter at present, Beth explained that cuts in legal aid and to welfare support in general have had the most deleterious impact on the lives of guests who come to the shelter. This is happening against the backdrop of a culture that is hostile to shelter-users. Add to this the frequently protracted delays in dealing with asylum support and one realises why as many guests end up repeatedly returning to Peace House as move on.
The hour spent at Peace House was very worthwhile and gave me a helpful insight into what a significant difference that the Passionist support can make to the lives of the destitute.
Carriers of Hope
Carriers of Hope is a remarkable success story within the city. It was initiated by Sue Sampson in 2009 as a response to the number of families in the area who were experiencing real poverty and lacking the most basic personal and household facilities. The vast majority of these were asylum seekers, refugees or recently arrived Eastern European migrants (primarily Roma people from Romania). Since it was established Carriers of Hope has worked with families from fifty different countries.
The charity started by preparing and handing out carrier bags of ‘useful things’ and by encouraging friends and supporters, mainly from the local churches, to join in and help provide them. These carrier bags gave the name to Carriers of Hope.
When I visited them in early March at their current base in a local church hall, Sue explained that the average weekly attendance is around 130 people who come to have some breakfast and collect food, clothes, shoes, household furnishings, bedding, kitchenware and baby equipment. They currently have 1200 people in the city registered with their service.
Sue is very appreciative of the support given to the charity by the Passionists. She told me that the money received from the Passionist Grant Panel had been put towards furnishing accommodation for asylum seeker families.
"As I reflect on who we are and have been as Passionists here in England, I feel sure that for us this statement is deeply real."
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