Homelessness: The Hub

In 2009 Metropolitan Jerome partnered the Brighton Oratory with the Salvation Army at The Level in central Brighton to facilitate a homeless drop-in later called “The Hub”. Majors Mark and Tracy Bearcroft were the Corps Officers at the time and the Corps had employed a part-time chef, Michael to work the Community Cafe at the front of the citadel complex. On Wednesdays the Meeting Hall at the rear of the complex was opened from 0830 to 1300 for the homeless to find shelter, showers, breakfast and lunch.

Metropolitan Jerome having a background in catering assisted Michael with the cooking, providing a meal for anywhere between 80 to 100 people! A small team of volunteers ably led by the indomitable Sandra (memory eternal) would  sign the guests in, organise a clothes exchange and help with the washing up. The Brighton Oratory provided volunteers, newspapers, board games and even an art class willingly delivered by local artist and parishioner, Shirley Veater. At the time, the Salvation Army citadel was one of only two places in the city open to the homeless to have showers.

In 2011 due to finances and changes in Corps management, Michael left the employ of the Salvation Army and so it fell to Metropolitan Jerome to continue with the cooking. Various of the guests offered to volunteer in the kitchen and from this developed the concept of what would later become Cherubs Kitchen. Metropolitan Jerome noticed, as chefs do, the skills or aptitude of those who volunteered in the kitchen and would ask in conversation whether a guest volunteering had experience in catering or an interest in catering. Some clearly had, but being homeless prevented them often from getting even a trial shift in a commercial kitchen. Metropolitan Jerome tried persuading and was occasionally successful in securing at least a trial shift for some of these volunteers, but often faced the same reticence by employers ref the “no fixed abode” of the applicants.

In 2013 an opportunity arose for Metropolitan  Jerome to realise the apostolate Cherubs Kitchen. Fortunately the Salvation Army were once again able to engage a chef and so Phil moving from Croydon and a similar project there, came to restart the Community Cafe and cater for The Hub. Metropolitan Jerome was free then to focus his energies on Cherubs Kitchen.

In 2016, Phil left the employ of the Salvation Army and a chef was needed again to cater for The Hub. So Metropolitan Jerome with the new Corps officers, Majors Mike & Elizabeth Lloyd, suggested that Cherubs Kitchen now partner with the Salvation Army to manage the catering. A whole new approach was discussed to change the operation and ethos of the drop-in; no more queueing up at the kitchen hatch to collect food, table cloths and table service were introduced and more volunteers were found to encourage more interaction between them and guests to provide a warmer rather than functional welcome.  The clothes exchange was expanded to include more underwear, particularly for women, and toiletries and bath-sized towels were provided for those showering.

Since Cherubs Kitchen partnered with The Hub local corporate sponsors have contributed not just finances but actual assistance in the form of volunteers, from painting and refreshing the premises through to actual hands-on volunteers, like Maria and Barb from Asda! Other local churches have joined in providing volunteers and collecting clothing and toiletries and even a chaplain, Andy, available to sit and talk with guests. A prayer room has been made available, also providing a safe space for guests to talk with a volunteer or chaplain or one of the visitors from other agencies. Other homeless charities and projects have become involved and medical professionals too have come to facilitate flu jabs and ensure guests are registered with a GP. Just Life support workers, Arch Healthcare (Brighton homeless surgery) practitioners, St Mungo’s rough sleeping support workers and other statutory agencies have begun to use The Hub as a place to find and interact with clients. Off the fence now send a laundry van to wash and dry clothes on site in the car park!

As usual at Christmas, The Hub will provide a warm and safe place to go for the homeless and the lonely on Christmas Day, beginning with a short service of carols followed by coffee and mince pies. Metropolitan Jerome, despite having a full schedule of services for the festival, will be joined by a team of volunteers to prep and serve Christmas Lunch provided by a local catering wholesaler; His Grace will cook the lunch as he has done for the past three years, running to and from the oven and the altar on Christmas morning! A local musically talented Christian family will provide music during the meal.

Approaching its tenth year, The Hub has quietly provided a consistent and invaluable service to the homeless of Brighton. For some guests its their first experience of receiving help and being homeless, for others it provides a structure to their week, for others a place to be social, for others still a place to get clean and to get clean clothes. Whoever and whatever the reason, all are literally welcome to The Hub who are in genuine need, questions aren’t asked and guests range from those sleeping rough on the streets. to those sofa-surfing, those who are housed but can’t afford food and those who are just lonely. A great core team of loyal volunteers led by Lyn provides a genuine welcome to guests as they come in off the streets every Wednesday.

Metropolitan Jerome cooks every Wednesday and is often thanked by guests throughout the week as he makes his way around the city on foot or by bus. It’s not often one sees an Archbishop in casual and familiar conversation in the street with a homeless person, yet having been cooking and serving them food for ten years, Metropolitan Jerome is known and respected by many for whom The Hub has been and still is a place of safety and of refreshment.

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