‘Comfort and Joy’ sharing some love at Christmas

Over 20 years ago, at a Portsmouth Housing Association meeting, two people chatted at the coffee break. That short conversation led to the development of Churches Homeless Action, a voluntary group of homelessness organisations and Churches that works to ensure that homelessness issues are kept on the churches’ agenda in Portsmouth and South East Hampshire, and their annual Voucher Scheme.

The conversation was around what was a common factor for those who were homeless – rough sleeping, sofa surfing, refugees, asylum seekers.

The two factors that were identified lie at the heart of the scheme. The first is that the gift of choice is one we take for granted, but which those who are on the margins do not often have. The gifts generously given by others, may not be what the individual would choose for themselves. The second was that those who are in the margins and homeless are not just a statistic, or a nuisance, or a ‘them’; but they are human beings like us.

So, the scheme has two elements:

  • the gathering of vouchers or gift cards for £5 or £10 so that those who receive them can choose what they have
  • the sharing of a Christmas card and a personal message, recognising our common humanity.

These two elements have then been shared with local charities and groups that support those who are homeless.

Each year Churches Homeless Action hear of how much this simple scheme means to those who receive the gift cards and greeting and how precious they are.

In a time of increasing worries and concerns about finance, food, fuel and wellbeing they hope to be able to share this precious gift and greeting with as many as they can.

If you would like to make a donation, please send your Christmas Card (in an unsealed envelope) and gift cards to:

The Deanery office
St Faith’s Church
Crasswell Street

If you wish to make a financial donation and wish to pay by BACS please contact Revd Canon Bob White at vicar@portseaparish.co.uk for details. Cheques should be made payable to St Mary’s PCC.

A Carol Sing In will be held on Friday 15th December at Noon at St Mary’s Church to distribute what has been collected, so donations should be submitted by 13th December.

This year Churches Homeless Action hope to support:

Two Saints
The vouchers would benefit our Two Saints Portsmouth services such as our adult services for example, Hope House, also our Young People’s services such as the Foyer and in addition to our mental health services in the city. The vouchers make a huge difference at Christmas to all our clients who receive them as give them the gift of choice and freedom to choose what to purchase based on their personal needs. This can be to meet their basis needs such as food and clothing or allows them to buy a loved one a gift at Christmas which they ordinarily may not be able to do.

Stop Domestic Abuse provide practical and emotional support to victims of domestic abuse living in Portsmouth, accommodating up to 21 women and 32 children in four refuges and also supporting women, children, young people and men living in their own homes.  We are also working with Portsmouth City Council and Two Saints to provide support to homeless women staying in respite rooms who have been victims of domestic abuse.  In the last year we have supported over 400 women, children, young people and men affected by domestic abuse in Portsmouth.

Roberts Centre
Over the years thousands of families and vulnerable single people supported by the Roberts Centre have benefitted from the kindness of those who support the Churches Homeless Action Voucher scheme. Never in the 34 years of the Roberts Centres existence has the kindness and compassion of those who make the Voucher scheme a reality been more important. At different times we all need the help of others and in these challenging times there seem too many more people who would benefit from the kindness of others. The Roberts Centre has expanded our range of beneficiaries over the past year, across our 15 services we support well over 1000 families and households a year.

Catherine Booth House
A residential Centre for 24 families with high support needs.  The vouchers are shared between the families (amount dependent of number in family) helping the parents to ensure the children and indeed themselves, have the best possible Christmas.

Pre Covid we were supporting rough sleeping who were accessing the homeless day service, to have access to basic needs and necessities such as food, washing facilities as well as access to 1:1 support from support worker and potentially a night bed etc.

Since Covid, we had 3 additional services put in place which are tagged to the homeless day service these are a temporary accommodation provision. We are currently supporting homeless people who have been placed in the temporary accommodations we have 45 rooms at Kingsway, 41 rooms at The Registry, 19 Rooms at Elm Grove and around 30-35 rough sleepers as we still have a day service provision for people who are still rough sleeping.

The idea now is that we support clients to gain skills to move through the pathway and end up in more permanent accommodation as a pose to temporary

Sunday Suppers and Friday Fridge
We are open to all comers for a hot meal, some food to take away, hot and cold drinks, a haircut occasionally, and an opportunity to sit down and talk to people. We peak at about 60 guests (we average about 45-50) but at Christmas time we tend to get packed out.

Our guests change week by week, some we see only a few times, others have been coming to Sunday Suppers or Friday Fridge for a very long time.

Portsmouth Churches Housing
Portsmouth Churches Housing Association would very much like to take part in this wonderful scheme again this year as our clients appreciate receiving these vouchers.

PCHA have three hostels.  Two hostels support 24 young homeless families, and one hostel supports 7 homeless single women.

Life House
We would like to pass vouchers with your participants’ Christmas Greetings “to our guests who are rough sleeping, sleeping in unsuitable conditions, underhoused, recovering addicts and those with poor mental health and any combination thereof.

We aim to create an environment of compassion and care, where people feel they belong, are accepted; and where they can build a sense of self-worth and confidence – a place where we can be generous with our time, energy and practical resources, where we can go the extra mile

Friends without Borders
Providing support to those who are asylum seekers and refugees in the area

Hope into Action
Providing supported housing in our city

Portsmouth City of Sanctuary
A local humanitarian organisation providing support to local asylum seekers and refugees in Portsmouth. We provide casework support and integration support to over 600 asylum seekers in the city, some of whom receive as little as £8 per week from the home office. We run a weekly multi-agency hub, the Refugee Sanctuary hub provides casework support, English lessons, Art sessions and other key agencies who provide specialist advice for local refugees and asylum seekers. We also deliver local community projects that promote independence and integration of migrants with the wider local community such as – community gardening, tree planting, women’s group, men’s group, a bicycle project and much more.