"You feed them," was Jesus' challenge to his perplexed disciples when faced with a hungry crowd.

When Saltbox was set up as a Christian charity 40 years ago, its founding vision was to provide Christian support and encouragement for local churches in order to help them grow and develop.

However, during a seven-year city-wide prayer campaign based on 2 Chronicles 7:14, I felt that God was calling Saltbox to focus more on engaging with the wider city and to address some of the social needs in our communities. As we saw people struggling with a range of issues, Jesus’ words to His disciples hit home. And so, we began a journey of showing Jesus’ love in action to a range of people in need.

Saltbox now provides three caring services – Restart provides housing and support to the homeless with a specific focus on those leaving prison; CareLink provides a telephone befriending and health intervention service for older, lonely people; and Money Matters provides money and benefits debt advice for the various Stoke-on-Trent foodbank locations.


A fresh Restart

Restart manages more than 60 local properties providing support for 130 potentially homeless people; Steve* joined Restart’s service in 2019 and had a wide range of support needs including mental health, alcohol/​drug dependency, offending and money management amongst others. He had previously been rough sleeping and sofa surfing so had no place of stability to call home. After intensive support over the last four years, Steve’s life has been transformed – he eventually stopped using, his offending also stopped, and he is now being helped to move into his own accommodation.

Matt Hammond, Restart’s client support manager, said: We are supporting those who are very often pushed out and isolated from society, we aim to give them the tools to not only reintegrate into society, but to become a welcome and valued member of their community, finding work, addressing their support needs and positively progressing in life.”

"When asked 'how do you change the world?' my answer is simple: ​'one life at a time' and Saltbox seeks to do this in the name of Jesus."

Supporting the elderly

CareLink’s staff and volunteers support 300 elderly people providing 15,000 phone calls per year; many of our clients are over 70 years old, most live on their own and, sadly, many don’t have close family members to support them. Alice* is 83 years old, and lives alone since her husband passed away. She suffers from osteoarthritis which affects her mobility, as well as suffering from anxiety; she had also stopped going out alone which hugely reduced her social engagement. CareLink’s team has supported Alice, including helping her join a CareLink support group, attend a local Chatty café́’ and also improve her digital skills. 

Carelink’s passion is to support older people who may have issues around loneliness and isolation to help them live independently for longer,” says Carelink service co-ordinator Nikki Simpson. 

Money Matters

Another project we are passionate about is Money Matters, which provides in-person and digital support to folk struggling with debt and needing benefits advice. Mary-Anne Rapson, manager at Money Matters, said their aim is to support clients with their benefits and debt through the tough times to help them regain control of their finances”.

Lisa* met one of the team at a local foodbank and had various challenges including a substantial amount of fuel debt, rent arrears and council tax debt, deductions from her Universal Credit, and non-priority debts. Thankfully, Lisa was supported throughout the debt advice process and was eligible for a Debt Relief Order which eventually cleared all her debts. 

One life at a time 

Today, at any one time, Saltbox’s 50 staff and 40+ volunteers are helping almost 500 local people in need. We have increased Saltbox’s strategic engagement with a range of partners including police, probation services, prisons, the NHS, hospitals and social services together with many other voluntary sector organisations and charities. 

When asked how do you change the world?” my answer is simple: one life at a time” and Saltbox seeks to do this in the name of Jesus. 

Jesus told His followers that they were to be the salt of the earth. After 40 years, Saltbox continues to seek to be salty”, to make a difference in the world, and aims to positively respond to Jesus’ You feed them” challenge. 

*Names have been changed to protect the identities of those mentioned accessing services.