Farnworth church steps up support for homeless community
published on 22 Jul 2021
A Salvation Army church has been stepping up its support for the homeless community during the pandemic, and the community has rallied round the corps after a spate of anti-social behaviour in the area.
Farnworth Salvation Army is offering hot food, drinks and a listening ear to a growing number of rough sleepers, who have shown their thanks by helping corps officer Captain Debbie Saunders at the Brackley Street church.
The corps has also been providing support for struggling families with food vouchers or food parcels, working with their local food bank run by The Trussell Trust.
Captain Debbie said: “Over the past nine months, we have been helping about 12 regular rough sleepers and their friends, serving a hot drink in the morning and late afternoon, and offering a hot meal at lunchtime.
“The numbers of people we are helping are growing and have been for the past months. It’s a mix of people who have been long-term homeless and those who have lost their jobs during the pandemic. We have a lot of people who have come from Eastern Europe to the UK for work, but their wages fluctuate, depending on their hours.
“Some just want to come and talk. We have three who come in regularly for a chat, who say that life is not worth living but coming to us does help. They know they can talk to us, and that we will listen, show them kindness and sign-post them to appropriate services.
“We get lots of donations of toothpaste, toothbrushes, shower gels, clothes, pot noodles and tinned food from church members and the community which we also hand out.
“As a way of saying thank you, some who come for hot drinks have been helping clear the overgrown derelict land at the back of the church, which has been attracting anti-social behaviour from youngsters in the area.”
Debbie and the team are making up starter packs of nappies, knitted items and wipes for new parents, working closely with midwives and health visitors to identify families most in need, and have volunteers raring to go when they launch an extensive outreach service in the near future.
On average they help around 24 struggling families a week.
The community is becoming more aware of the work being done by the corps in Farnworth after issues with anti-social behaviour drew their attention.
Debbie said: “There has been a lot of anti-social behaviour affecting businesses in the area. We’ve had problems with teenagers setting fires outside, climbing onto roofs and the bin cages. In one incident they threw stones at me, hitting me on the head.
“What happened to me was shared in a local Facebook group and there were a lot of supportive comments from the community. I had visitors coming to check I was okay. Someone brought me a huge bunch of flowers and another offered to help upgrade our CCTV for us and told me the Farnworth community is 100 per cent behind us.
“Our charity shop has also been broken into a number of times as well, which has cost thousands of pounds because we had to keep replacing several doors.”
With the NHS also setting up a PCR testing bus nearby, more people are drawn to church and community hub.
She added: “People have always known us for the charity shop, but they are now more aware of what else we do, why we do what we do and they know we can help them.”