News from the St John Henry Newman Parish

In late December 2023 a partnership project between Brushstrokes, a Community Project of Father Hudson’s Care, and the St John Henry Newman Parish of Walsall and Wolverhampton finally came to fruition. 

The doors of a former presbytery house in Willenhall were finally opened to welcome its first three new residents, all young men who had recently received refugee status in the UK and could finally start their journeys integrating into UK society.

Back in the late spring of 2023 the St John Henry Newman Parish, led by Fr Craig Fullard, had generously decided that the vacant presbytery in Walsall would be best used as a property to support some of the UK’s increasingly vulnerable refugee population. 

The parish approached Brushstrokes, a charity organisation based in Sandwell who specialise in advice and support matters for asylum seekers and refugees across the West Midlands, to help set-up, find suitable residents for and to take over the day-to-day running of the house. Brushstrokes gratefully accepted the offer.

With considerable assistance from the volunteers of the parish the next six months were spent fitting the five-bedroom house to Local Authority standard, furnishing it and agreeing where the residents should come from.

The first three residents, all of Middle Eastern descent, moved in in December. They had all spent considerable time (up to two years) in asylum accommodation while waiting for their refugee status and once they’d received that status, they would normally have spent a long time living in often quite squalid temporary accommodation, had the offer of a room in this house not come about. They are responsible for their own rent and living costs and Brushstrokes will spend the next 12 months working with them to understand the responsibilities of living in the UK, integrate with the local community, gain full-time employment and eventually find their own properties.

One of the residents said: “This is such a lovely house and so much nicer than the asylum accommodation I lived in before. I will be able to carry on with my volunteer work from here and also look for a job I am qualified to do in IT. Thank you to Brushstrokes and the Newman Parish for this wonderful opportunity.”

The house was blessed by Archbishop Bernard Longley in a small ceremony on Tuesday 16 January.  

This was followed by Persian singing and cakes and an enjoyable time of getting to know our new guests even more!

A tree was also planted to commemorate the occasion as part of the Parish ‘Live Simply’ campaign.

Photo Gallery

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