Network Researcher, Amy Pether, accompanied CSAN’s Chair of Trustees Bishop Drainey on a recent visit to CSAN members – read on to hear about their day and the great work of the charities they visited…
Wandering through the luxurious St James’s Park and Westminster area of London on Wednesday 8th October, overrun with professionals in suits, stylish offices and trendy coffee shops, I came to the Cardinal Hume Centre, a historic convent which is now a thirty-two bed hostel enabling people to gain the skills they need to overcome poverty and homelessness. Westminster council writes that services in Westminster met more than 1,500 new rough sleepers last year, meaning that amongst the wealth and success of this area of London is real need and absolute poverty.
I, a new addition to the CSAN team, was to accompany Bishop Terry Drainey as he spent a day visiting a few members of our network to mark the beginning of his time as the Chair of the CSAN Board of Trustees.
On arrival at the centre, after the obligatory tea and chat, Bishop Terry and I were given a full and enlightening description of the wonderful work that the centre embarks on. As well as being a hostel, the centre provides advice and support on many aspects of life, for example, income – we saw a job club in action in the centre’s computer rooms, where the focus we were told was on ‘quality of job applications, not quantity’, though this is made extremely difficult by harsh benefit sanctions. The centre also gives housing advice in order to prevent homelessness from happening in the first instance, and learning services for those for whom English is not their first language. Many of the people who the centre sees are immigrants and therefore advice on legal status is an important part of their work. The centre also emphasises the importance of the family and provides family support – an example of this is the nursery which was a very joyous and heart warming final visit of the tour.
The Bishop and I then headed to the underground, travelling to the depths of north London, to visit St Joseph’s Pastoral Centre, which seeks to enable people with learning disabilities to participate fully in society through the church and their community. The centre provides a whole host of activities and courses – from pottery classes to an internet cafe, from horticulture to a drum studio. Touring the centre, and joining staff and students for lunch, was an extremely uplifting experience; though busy and reasonably hectic, there was an ultimately relaxed and familiar appeal to the centre – everyone knew each other by name and the staff responded to individual students with touching compassion and understanding, even when having to be rather stern! It was explained to us that without the centre the only option for the people who attended would be to stay at home and watch the TV, becoming less able to interact, without ever realising their own gifts and talents, and therefore becoming increasingly frustrated and withdrawn. The centre, it seems, provides an extremely necessary service and, in their own words, gives ‘lifelong learning and celebrates the gifts of all people’.
As the day came to a close, Bishop Terry had his final meeting where he was told about the work of the Jesuit Refugee Service, while I returned to my desk both uplifted and encouraged by the wonderful work of the members of the CSAN network for the most vulnerable, marginalised and needy in our society.