WEBBER STREET DAY CENTRE IS SHIFTING ITS FOCUS TO BRING LOCAL CHURCHES INTO THE CENTRE OF ITS WORK. ONE OF THE KEY REASONS FOR THIS IS THAT CHURCHES CAN DRAW PEOPLE INTO A FAMILY AND COMMUNITY AND OFFER A DEPTH OF RELATIONSHIP THAT CANNOT BE FOUND ELSEWHERE
When we think about people who are homeless, the first thing we naturally think about is their homelessness.
For government and all other agencies, the focus is on essential practical needs – to get into accommodation and to address obstacles such as employability, addictions, mental health problems.
But there is so much more to people, says Jenn Garibay, missionary based at Webber Street.
As a gospel ministry, Webber Street has more scope than many agencies to relate to the whole person and build relationships with guests. We can offer a relationship with God through Jesus. We can show the care and the love that God has for our guests. That addresses a greater and deeper spiritual need. And working alongside local churches, we can take these relationships further.
Jenn says, ‘I find that, with the right support, the church can begin to relate to the needs of the whole person. A church community embraces every aspect of a person’s life, their gifts and needs.’
‘There is a big difference between receiving support from a service provider and being helped by someone motivated simply by love and the desire for a relationship.’
Webber Street daily shares the gospel with guests in short talks and individual conversations. Closer connections with local churches means we can introduce people to a family in which they can grow in faith.
Together, we can show care and the love that God has for them, meeting a bigger, greater and eternal need.
For example, there is one woman who volunteers from a church local to Webber Street. She comes a couple of times a week to serve guests.
Some of the guests came to her church on Sunday. When she saw them in the queue for teas and coffees at Webber Street, she recognised them and called by name.
The queue for drinks needs to move pretty fast, nevertheless, she acknowledged a deeper connection. As she knew them from church, she was able to offer a little extra care and attention.
‘This might seem a small thing,’ Jenn says, ‘but many people who are homeless are in a situation in which they feel dehumanised. Simply being recognised and acknowledged in a queue makes a lot of difference.’
The same church, The Globe Church, is working alongside us hosting an evening meal for invited Webber Street guests once a month. They have taken seriously the opportunity to build relationship with the guests in a setting that’s based on community and friendship rather than providing needs.
And then it is natural to extend this to invite people to church on a Sunday.
Webber Street is now planning a couple of exciting new initiatives in partnership with local churches. The first is to a start a women’s drop in. There are often fewer female guests compared to male ones, and women’s needs are different to men, so Webber Street wants to make time to give them special attention.
It will be based on creating a safe space with a hot meal and good conversation. We are asking churches to pray about their involvement.
The second is to build on an existing art project and develop an art club once restrictions are lifted. People who are sleeping on the street have lives that are very disjointed, often concerned only with day-to-day survival. To have an opportunity to start and complete something creative is phenomenal. Artists can teach new skills, which help self-esteem.
If we get someone who is homeless embedded in a church community, they are dependent not on one individual, but belong to the whole body. This is important for when people move on or situations change.
We want to help the whole person and respond to all their needs. The most important need is for Christ.