Celebrations mark 25 years of Salvation Army lifehouse

published on 5 Oct 2023

Celebrations were held at a Salvation Army hostel (known as a ‘lifehouse’) in Essex recently to mark its 25th anniversary.

New Direction in Braintree provides temporary accommodation and support for 14 homeless people over the age of 18. It aims to help clients work towards independent living by providing additional support for the issues which led to them becoming homeless. Over the last 25 years, The Salvation Army team has supported around hundreds of homeless people in the town. 

Past and present staff and residents were joined by representatives from partner organisations, leaders and members of the congregation at The Salvation Army in the town to mark the anniversary with a barbecue and an afternoon of karaoke.

Sharon Ralph has been the manager at New Direction for 14 years and has worked at the lifehouse for nearly 20 years. She said she still loves the job as much today as when she first started.

New Direction Cake
Programme manager Anthony Reay and manager Sharon Ralph cut a cake baked especially for the anniversary

Sharon explained: “It’s rewarding watching the residents grow, move on, achieve the things they want to achieve and move into their own accommodation. Sadly, there is still a need for us due to homelessness in Braintree.

“We’ll carry on doing what we are doing and it’s nice to be able to recognise the fact that we have been here for a quarter of a century. Today is a thank you to the agencies we work with and the support we get from the community.”

For programme manager Anthony Reay, New Direction will always be a special place because he is a former resident. He moved in 2012 when he was 18, following a relationship breakdown with his mother and says the support he received helped shape his future.

He explained: “I had no idea what to expect and I was very anxious and very low in mood  as I felt abandoned and not wanted. I found the team very welcoming and accommodating and this enabled me to build on myself. I was in college and had a part time job and thought becoming homeless would mean I needed to give up both but because of New Direction, I didn’t need too.”

New Direction Karaoke
Captain Rachel Hepburn, New Direction Chaplain, and Amanda Rolls, Early Intervention Worker, led the karaoke

Anthony was thrilled to be a part of New Direction’s 25th anniversary as programme manager.

He said: “I love working for The Salvation Army at New Direction and I am very passionate at helping people who are homeless as I was. My work is also therapeutic as it helps me to process my past traumas and I feel that I am giving something back for the support that I received at a very dark time in my life.”

The Salvation Army’s New Direction team in Braintree works alongside partners who refer people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness including Braintree District Council, mental health teams and other housing providers. 

For more information about New Direction, Braintree, visit: https://www.salvationarmy.org.uk/new-direction-braintree 

A Salvation Army volunteer wearing a red puffer jacket delivers a care package to an older woman

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