27 September 2013
by Amy Wearring
This project has been nominated for the 2013 Inspire awards run by Inspire magazine in partnership with us at the Evangelical Alliance.
The Well, based in Layton, Blackpool, is a homeless outreach centre supported by three local churches and more than 30 volunteers. Now in its tenth year, the centre was born out of a vision to help the homeless, and has now expanded.
Using a premises owned by Blackpool Borough Council, Len and Carol Fowler lead the project which opens four days a week. The couple work tirelessly to share God's love with people who are homeless, strangers to Blackpool or drug addicts.
The Well project, which operates as a free Encounter café on a Saturday morning and a drop-in centre and foodbank has distributed thousands of food and clothing parcels over the last nine years and the couple have been serving in the local church for 40 years.
The Well & the Encounter Cafe meets on the Queen's Park Estate in the Walter Robinson Community Centre, Layton Blackpool and is open to anyone who needs a hot breakfast, clothes, food parcels, someone to pray for them or who just needs a listening ear.
Len and Carol were once homeless themselves and it is knowing how it feels which fuels their desire to help vulnerable people in the same situation without judgment, showing God's grace and love.
"We share stories of people's lives that God has changed, we speak hope to situations that seem hopeless. Our aim is to point the way to Jesus because only he can clean up and transform lives," said Carol.
"Where we are in Blackpool it is high-rise flats and it is mostly homeless and people from the estate that come in.
"There are so many who live from hand to mouth and whose benefits don't go as far as they should. Maybe because they are addicted to drugs, have health problems, have become alcoholics or simply are families that can't make ends meet. Whatever their problems, we aim to show God's grace by lending a helping hand and a listening ear. We show them, through our actions and our words, that God loves them and they are not forgotten."
The project hosts speakers who share testimonies and inspiring stories to help clients find their way into a meaningful relationship with God. Len has a powerful testimony of healing from God. For seven years he had Parkinson's disease and used two walking sticks, a wheelchair and had to take 15 tablets a day. After entering a church service one day, God completely healed him. His GP and the hospital specialist were amazed at the healing that had taken place.
The Well was nominated for an Inspire Award by Matthew Gregory. Matthew who founded and then led the project for a year before handing over it to Len and Carol said: "They are humble and unassuming people and have never sought publicity. I believe it's time for some recognition for this project and the couple at the helm. They have a vision for the future and now want to reach out to those who live on the Queen's Park Estate."
Encounter café has its own relaxed church with discussions about the Bible and its relevance, sometimes with musicians or quizzes. Unlike many churches, people sit round tables in a casual way enjoying cups of coffee and in the winter months many will leave with leftover food for the days ahead.