A New Leader and a New Home
2013 had seen some major changes in supporting housing in Gloucester as well as the closure of the Night shelter. Dave saw a need and gap in provision for the most vulnerable in society and believed as a Christian he had a duty and an opportunity to make a difference.
With the aid of a few friends Project Beacon started with a rucksack and flask (very much in the way Gloucester City Mission did) going out on a Saturday night 9pm till 10.30(ish) to reach out to those sleeping on the streets, those in supported accommodation and those in temporary and emergency accommodation.
Dave says “It was mentioned to me, when explaining about Project Beacon and what it does, that I sounded like a young Mike Curtis. Unsure if this was a compliment or a criticism I sought out Mike and Gloucester City Mission. The comparisons were obvious and methods similar, it was also clear that Gods timing was on this and guidance was sought”.
Project Beacon has 3 main aims – to provide warmth through clothes, sleeping bags and blankets, to offer sustenance through tea, coffee, soup and sandwiches and finally to signpost people to agencies appropriate to their need.
Dave says “The exciting thing for me regarding Project Beacon was the chance to go out and show the light of Christ out on the streets in a practical way. We have had various volunteers come out with us since we started in December 2013, including non Christians (what a great way to witness), and professionals from organisations in the city. “
In 2014 they were nominated for a Heart of Gloucestershire award for Community Project of the year; they made the final 3 but lost out on winning the category. Not really a loss considering how far they had come, the links they had made and the work they had done. Dave said “In reality Project Beacon isn’t about recognition it is about helping people break the cycle of homelessness, it is about befriending in a safe and responsible way people who don’t feel listened to and it is about showing Gods love in a practical way to those in the dark. “
After much discussion and prayer Dave agreed to join GCM part-time and in November 2014 he started to work alongside Mike. They were able to have 6 months together before Mike retired in May 2015.
Dave says “Project Beacon and Gloucester City Mission working together excites me and I hope we continue to go from strength to strength helping those who need it, building relationships and seeing growth in Gods kingdom.”
Dave now splits his time between his other part-time job, as a housing officer with Gloucester City Homes, and GCM. Dave continues to run the drop in on a Wednesday morning, along with our large group of volunteers. He also advocates for the vulnerable and signposts them to appropriate agencies as well as facilitating training and running workshops on homelessness.
In January 2015, after the announcement of the closure of the Vaughan Centre, where The Homeless Healthcare Team were based, a vision was born to have a centre where everything could be under one roof.
To that end we came to realise that with our limited resources ‘we cannot be all things to all people’. Yet there were those in the City who were already servicing the needs of the hungry and those who are homeless and in need of medical care.
Gloucester Food Bank was one key partner and Gloucester Care Services (Homeless Healthcare Team) was the other one. With both of these partners looking for a permanent home we began exploring together whether we could reside under one shared roof and be more effective in serving those in need in this way. The concept of three major players working under one roof in serving the most vulnerable in our City but with each retaining their own operational identity, was very exciting.
It became increasingly apparent that the George Whitfield Centre in Great Western Road was where God was directing us. Numerous meetings took place and the landlord was sent a joint ‘Letter of Understanding’ from all three parties about their respective interests.
Early in June 2015 we put out a quick update to some of our close friends and supporting churches asking folk to pray for what we thought God wanted us to do. In writing in this way we were keen to share this exciting news and ask that they stood with us in seeking God’s guidance and confirmation that the path we thought was right and correct, actually was!
By the way things moved after that, God made things very clear to us as the landlord of The George Whitfield Centre heard of our vision and agreed to our three-way tenancy. Our identity was not compromised with this plan, only strengthened. The synergy of bringing these three independent organisations together under one roof creates a Centre where our work can be more effective and more needs met.
The needs of those we meet continues to stretch our limited resources but we could see that God wanted us to step out in faith and trust Him for what He had in store and on 2nd May 2016 we moved into The George Whitfield Centre. GWC is now open Tuesday & Friday afternoons from 2-4 pm as well as on Wednesday mornings. There are also showers, clothes washing facilities and a clothing store.
In June 2017 Nick Penney joined the staff team as Centre Coordinator. Nick has previously worked as the Operations manager for the Mariners Church, he will be dividing his time between his role at the City Mission and as the Operations Officer for Gloucester Cathedral. Nick has been volunteering with various organisations working with street people for several years and has a heart to help these people move forward with life. “I feel that my own life experiences can be used by God to really connect with the people who the City Mission supports on a daily basis”. Nick is looking forward to supporting the Mission in what he believes is a very exciting time, as it looks to grow the services that are offered to the vulnerable in our City.