13 April 2024

Basildon: A stepping stone to shelter

Major Tim Justice

A photo of the Basildon Corps building.

Major Tim Justice give an insight into the ministry of Basildon Corps.

Just where he needs me

I was appointed as the corps officer in July 2022. It’s a small corps with a relaxed congregation of about 25 people of varying ages and ethnic backgrounds. Two other churches also hold their services here on Sundays and we have a Bible study group and Alpha.

Part of my role is overseeing the work of Programme Manager Tracie Sharkey, who manages our award-winning six modular SoloHaus homes, donated by The Hill Group, as part of a larger development.

Five pounds multiplied in faith

Just under a decade ago, a then five-year-old boy, Malachi, asked the Army to use his £5 donation from the tooth fairy to help people experiencing homelessness. After a period of additional fundraising, Malachi Place in Ilford opened in 2020, followed by Malachi Homes in Basildon in May 2023.

Residents at Malachi Homes are individually supported to ensure they attend appointments and their needs are met. Some do some cooking at the corps and they’ve been working on a garden project with wellbeing and mental health charity Trust Links.

A hub of helpfulness

We have a weekly food bank, which is in high demand. We also offer kitchen, laundry and shower facilities and a daily drop-in during the week with befrienders and much-needed listening ears.

We work closely with other churches through Churches Together. Every day a different church provides a community meal at 6pm.

Employment Plus operates when the food bank is open and Essex Wellbeing Service are on hand to offer support with physical health. Peabody, part of the council’s outreach services, provides assistance with housing applications. An NHS mental health professional also visits and refers people on to other agencies, such as support for substance abuse.

A rhythm of prayer

It’s important that service users know that we are a church. We hold daily prayers at 9am, midday and 3pm – if we miss one, they let us know! It’s great to see folk at the drop-ins engaging in prayer. It’s so important we nurture their spiritual wellbeing as well as meet their physical needs.

Changing seasons

Over winter the churches collaborated to provide a night shelter, which stopped at the end of March. Last September we enhanced our provision – by staying open later, for example – to meet one person’s particular needs.

A collage of two photos from Basildon: one of the modern front doors of the SoloHous homes with little gardens and gates, and another of the garden project featuring raised beds with plants and flowers
SoloHaus units and the garden project

When the Saturday night shelter – held in the corps building – closed at 8am on Sundays, I’d been opening the hall early so that they could stay longer and even stay for our meeting if they wished to.

When better weather comes, people drift away a little, although they often return to use the facilities. Now we get 10 to 20 people a day coming through the doors, some of whom stay all day.

Safe haven to next steps

Resident ‘Ezekial’ was sleeping rough before being introduced to the corps. He said: ‘The Army has allowed me to live a normal life. The facilities are great, and Majors Tim and Jo are real diamonds. Something we can learn from them is how to show love and patience in a caring way.

‘I’m stepping forward into a position where I’d like to be, rather than just taking a space in an HMO. This is a safe haven where I can build my next steps. I hope I can give back to this place. This feels like home and that’s why I come here.’

Demand has risen recently, perhaps because of our night shelter or because homelessness has generally become a more prolific problem. God has placed us where we are to respond to that need. We pray God will continue to bless and use us.

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