A New Year and a New Start for Roy

Run by Father Hudson’s Care in partnership with Caritas Archdiocese of Birmingham, other charities and business people, Tabor House offers accommodation and support to people in Birmingham who are experiencing homelessness. As well as shelter and food, it runs a mentoring programme to help people move off the streets and into more permanent accommodation. The project aims to tackle the rising tide of rough sleeping in the city. Guests are respected and treated with dignity and friendship as they are supported to move forward.

Less than four months after welcoming its first guests, Tabor House is celebrating a tremendous milestone as one of the first people to stay there moves into permanent accommodation and employment. Mairead Shaw, Project Co-ordinator, writes about Roy, whose life has been turned around thanks to the shelter.

Roy was one of our first guests and was invited to stay at Tabor House in early October. He had been sleeping in a tent in Birmingham city centre and his journey to homelessness is one that evokes the phrase, ‘there, but for the Grace of God, go I.’

Roy worked for most of his life. He had a partner and good health, but in 2016 he found himself unable to finance his own living space. His work dried up and his relationship broke down. The savings ran out and he had no choice but to sleep in his tent. How many of us can be assured that this will never happen to us?

Roy used the Churches’ Winter Night Shelter over Christmas 2016 and was supported by parishioners at St Anne’s Catholic Church in Digbeth, who would later serve as volunteers at Tabor House. However, when the shelter closed in the spring he returned to sleeping in his tent. He consequently developed respiratory problems and a sense of hopelessness.
In Roy’s own words, he ‘just gave up.’

When Roy came to stay at Tabor House he was exhausted. It took some time before he adapted, physically and mentally, to living in a shared indoor space.

However, after a few weeks of good sleep, nutritious meals and engaging with others in a homely, welcoming environment, Roy came back to life. Staff and volunteers, some of whom were old friends of Roy’s from the Churches’ Winter Night Shelter, witnessed him become a different person altogether.

We could see that Roy had great potential. One of our founders supported Roy to update his qualifications and find work. Roy secured a permanent job as a forklift driver with EH Smith in December. He continues to move forward—at the end of January, Roy moved into his own flat, with his own front door and his own key.

Roy has an individual volunteer mentor as part of Tabor House’s mentoring programme who will continue to support him for nine months. Perhaps Roy will even return to volunteer with us some day!

He has been a model employee and guest and has expressed much gratitude for the support and opportunities that he has encountered in Tabor. Roy gives all credit for his progress to the staff at Tabor House but, in truth, the staff merely recognised Roy’s potential and capacity for change while supporting and encouraging him to harness it. This ‘strength-based approach’ is something that makes Tabor House special.

The opportunities for employment, accommodation and personal development simply manifested from the faith and goodwill of a small network of staff and volunteers motivated to serve our vulnerable guests and witness the miracle of transformation that continues to take place in Tabor House.

In December Roy had spoken to assembled guests at the blessing of Tabor House, led by Archbishop Bernard. At the time he thanked all involved in setting up Tabor House and the staff who run it. He especially praised the dedicated volunteers, saying ‘We’re not always easy, but we are grateful.’

Archbishop Bernard gave the blessing on 3 December, welcoming members of the clergy, religious sisters, representatives from Father Hudson’s Care, and parishioners, as well as Tabor House volunteers, guests and members of the management committee to the event. On entering, all guests were presented with an uncut key, engraved with the name Tabor House.

Steve Martin, of Tabor House’s management committee, spoke about the uncut keys, saying that they are keys that open no door. Just as Mary and Joseph experienced closed doors in Bethlehem, so homeless people today cannot open doors to safety and shelter. He asked those present to keep their uncut key on a keyring with their house or car keys to remember our homeless brothers and sisters. Archbishop Bernard put his with the keys to Archbishop’s House.

His Grace then blessed Tabor House, its volunteers and guests, praying for us all to reach out to people in need.

A partnership project between Father Hudson’s Care, Caritas Archdiocese of Birmingham, Housing Justice, the St Vincent de Paul Society, Midland Heart, Birmingham Irish Association, corporate philanthropists and local homelessness specialists, Tabor House supports men and women experiencing homelessness to turn their lives around. Through practical support, friendship and advice, Tabor House works with people to move into more permanent accommodation.

It has an ongoing need for volunteers and donations of household essentials, toiletries and food. To find out more about supporting the shelter, visit www.fatherhudsons.org.uk.

By Helen McCarroll,
Father Hudson’s Care