Will volunteers still be able to make such a difference in the future, as the retirement age increases? Church Action on Poverty, Sheffield, on its 6th annual pilgrimage on 18 October with the theme “What makes a Good Society”, heard over and over again how the projects visited depend on and value volunteers to support their work with the homeless, helpless and vulnerable. Mental illness was also closely linked to the situations of many of those who are being assisted across the city.
St Wilfrid’s, one of the largest day centres in northern England started to help homeless men in 1991. The workshop, education programme, community concerts, drama and sports all contribute to building confidence in the clients, who can then make friends and improve their self esteem and life skills. The challenging dream of raising £1.8 million to build a residential unit should become a reality in one or two years. They will be able to support and equip those with learning difficulties, disability or mental health issues to learn to live independently.
Sheffield Christian Council for Community Care helps isolated older people at home and as they are discharged from hospital. Volunteers provide a listening ear, and practical items are borrowed or hired. Evangelists at Wilson Carlile centre, head office of the Church Army, reach out to the “least, lost and last”. The café provides a place for listening to problems and worries, so that the mission taken out on to the streets has a purpose. The pupils at the primary school next door are 97% Muslim, but the chaplain takes assemblies, and by listening here and talking to local leaders, he can support community needs in prayer.
The Cathedral Archer Project, in a purpose built space below the Anglican Cathedral, has a wide range of services to assist homeless people.
The pilgrimage ended with a discussion about a “Good Society”.