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20 February 2014

Putting hope into action

Putting hope into action

by Graeme Stevenson

Churches and community groups provide shelter and hot food for the homeless across the UK but one project is going the extra mile by providing houses for the vulnerable, in partnership with local churches.

Hope Into Action won the Centre for Social Justice award 2013 for offering individualslong-term solutions and a second chance in life, regardless of background. This charity project was set up by Ed Walker in 2010.

Ed was inspired to take action when he met a man in the park one morning with only a few pounds in his pocket and nowhere to stay for the night, having spent all of his money on alcohol.

Now Ed and his expanded Hope into Action team of trained volunteers have worked with ex-offenders, recovering alcoholics/drug users and homeless people, along with 19 people who have suffered domestic violence and 3 ex-sex workers.

Based in Peterborough, Cambridge, Nottingham and Norwich, Hope into Action provides houses, purchased either by private landlords or through fundraising in local churches, for vulnerable people.

With 18 houses, in partnership with churches, the charity are in the process of opening eight more and have a target of reaching 25 by the end of 2014.

Ed reflects on how far he has come: "It has been a joy to see the vision we started with, less than four years ago, begin to become a reality. The lives of vulnerable adults (ex offenders, homeless, ladies fleeing domestic violence, former addicts) are being transformed – people are coming to faith, turning their back on crime, drugs, and getting jobs.

"Equally important to us is that church members are entering into genuine relationships with the vulnerable and are themselves having their eyes opened to the need in our cities."

The Church is central to the Hope in Action model. Not only does it provide support through prayer and willing community volunteers, but it helps provide stability and friendship for those who have none.

Despite the level of engagement from local churches, leaders of Hope In Action are keen not to put unnecessary pressure on them by ensuring they complete all referrals, benefits, tenancies and rent collection.

The charity also trains volunteers to assist in a variety of roles including mentoring those they house. The focus is on easing the housed individuals back into society and building relationships that demonstrate value and love to those who perhaps have not typically had a positive experience of this in the past.

Another part of the vision is to encourage, grow and use the gifts of volunteers while supporting those in need.

Ed adds: "It is about giving those who could help the confidence to believe they can help, and providing the means for them to do so in order to make a differenceto people that are, at times, confined to the shadows."

Volunteers bring pastoral, administrative, or simply monetary skills to the table as part of the team.

Having been given a place to live, these vulnerable groups are then encouraged to set personal goals and are supported as they go back to employment and independent living.