The manager of a day centre for homeless and vulnerable people has urged parishes across the UK to sponsor refugees.
The Cornerstone Day Centre in Hulme, Manchester, provides services to those facing homelessness, poverty, social isolation, poor mental health, and drug and alcohol addiction.
The centre, part of Caritas Diocese of Salford, operates an open door policy, welcoming people from all backgrounds and aims to support them and improve their prospects and quality of life.
The current refugee crisis has seen a huge increase in people visiting the centre, which currently has a number of pods – prefab buildings – located in the car park. Each pod is able to house between two to three people, however Angela Shannon, manager of the centre, says more help is needed as the demand far outweighs the number of pods available.
“We have people sleeping in the centre at night because there aren’t enough pods,” she told The Universe. “This has obviously had an effect on costs such as electricity, water and supervision.”
Ms Shannon revealed plans for two further pods but stressed that more help from parishes was paramount.
“If every parish across the UK was able to sponsor a pod and welcome a small number of refugees into their community it would be a huge help,” she said. “We’d give full training and screen all the people before we sent them.”
Meanwhile, Ann Mitchell, a support worker who has worked with Cornerstone for 22 years, has appealed to Universe readers to sponsor and register for this year’s Cornerstone Big Sleep-Out.
“At the moment we have 29 homeless sleeping at the day centre,” she told The Universe. “Some are sleeping in the pods and others are in the centre.
“The bulk of the money goes on paying night staff as we have to have supervision at all times, so we’re sleeping out again this year to raise another pot of money to be able to continue because the need is so great – today alone we’ve had about six people turn up homeless.”
The charity event, which helps to support thousands of men and women who sleep rough on the streets, is now in its third year.
It was first organised in 2015 in response to the homeless and vulnerable people who attend the day centre.
“The weather was really bad and at 5:30pm, when we were closing up our doors, we were leaving people sitting outside,” Ms Mitchell explained. “When we came back in the morning the people were really cold, wet and crying. The odd morning they even had frostbite and were asking to come in.”
The first Big Sleep-Out, which saw over 125 people take part, resulted in enough funds to begin a safe haven night shelter for the winter months.
“The second year we had to sleep out again and raise more money to continue with the night shelter and from May last year the need was so great that we had to open it full time,” added Ms Mitchell.
However, she stressed that the centre doesn’t just provide people with beds.
“We work with them, we try to move them on to a shared house and so many have got work,” she said. “We support them, we don’t just leave them on their own and set them up to fail.”
Ms Mitchell also noted that the centre closes at 4pm and runs English classes for refugees until 9pm.
“We can have up to 60 refugees coming to learn English,” she explained. “Some of them have even gone to university through our English classes. We like to think of Cornerstone as a big family.”
This year’s Big Sleep-Out will take place on Friday, 21st April in St Christopher’s in Ashton-under-Lyne.
“St Christopher’s parish priest Fr Simon Firth is very good to us,” explained Ms Mitchell, adding that the Bishop of Salford, John Arnold, and Cornerstone’s Sr Lucy Dunne, who recently celebrated her 80th birthday, would both be taking part.
To register or find out more about Cornerstone Big Sleep-Out see www.cornerstonebigsleepout.co.uk.
Inside this week’s Universe: Read about Mohammed Alobayed, the refugee who fled Syria, swam from Turkey to Greece and eventually built a new life at Cornerstone.
Picture: Mohammed Alobayed and Angela Shannon standing outside one of the pods at the Cornerstone Day Centre.