Earlier this year, Sanctus, based in Stoke-on-Trent, joined the NACCOM Network. We recently caught up with the charity’s director, Rev. Sally Smith (below right), who shared some stories from the project so far.
Sally writes: ‘Sanctus was officially launched in June 2014, and then registered as a CIC in October of that year. There had previously been a women’s drop in at St Mark’s Church, which had moved to another venue, but we found that asylum seekers, men and women, continued to turn up at the church looking for support on Wednesday mornings. We really just responded to the need, kept the door open and welcomed people. As the numbers increased, we began to build a structure and service around the needs that were being presented, and this is still in development.’
Since these early days, the charity now offers accommodation to 9 adults and 2 babies (with their mothers) who would otherwise be completely destitute. Sally explains; ‘We currently rent 3 terraced houses from private landlords… Some of our volunteers have spare bedrooms which they offer in an emergency, but we aim to prevent people from becoming dependant on us, and so move into housing as soon as is practicable. None of our guests pay rent, as they are not allowed to work or have tenancy rights. We rely on the goodwill of churches and other well-wishers to donate finances to pay the costs of accommodation and subsistence.‘ Sanctus are also in the process of looking at developing ‘mixed economy’ housing, in partnership with their local YMCA.
The biggest challenge facing the organisation at this time, Sally explains, is the desperation experienced by those facing destitution, ‘who come to the drop in week after week‘. However there have been some amazing highlights in the last few months as well, including the support the team has been able to offer to a Syrian lady whose children were still in Bulgaria, having been left by traffickers. Sally writes; ‘We were able to trace the children, fly out to Bulgaria, and take them to a Christian home where they were accommodated and home schooled for 11 months, until were able to bring them to the UK to be reunited with their mother and young sister.’
Another positive encouragement has been the journey of a very depressed destitute lady who, with help from Sanctus, can now access support, and is a smiling and enthusiastic volunteer at the Sanctus Drop In in a neighbouring town! The team have also been encouraged over the last few months by the willingness of churches of all denominations in the area to offer support and partnerships.
To find out more about the fantastic work of Sanctus, please visit their website.