Arts project improves welcome to homeless

An artistic collaboration between the local library and the Winter Shelter in Tunbridge Wells has been bearing creative fruit for the shelter’s visitors.

Although only open for two months of the year, the small team involved at the Tunbridge Wells Winter Shelter has been having a big impact through the chaplaincy service they offer to the guests and volunteers.

Their ministry of ‘presence’ has been very positively received and has led to many opportunities for conversations about faith and prayer for people, volunteers as well as guests. It’s also led to some unexpected collaborations and outcomes, such as an Arts project with the local library.

Last year the team supplied prayer resources which also included adult colouring books. Proving popular, the chaplaincy team decided to try running some art afternoons for which the local library kindly offered some space, as Rev Miriam Barker, Community Chaplain explained:

“We’re extremely grateful to the library for their generous hospitality in offering their space to us. Our guests come from many different backgrounds and need the facilities of the Winter Shelter for different reasons. These afternoons in the library, run by myself and Rev Rosheen Browning, were a space to be creative and expressive, and a safe space to share conversations.

Miriam went on: “There was much laughter and good conversation as we worked, ranging from sharing memories of the past to deeper discussions of life and faith. The work was framed and exhibited first in St James’ Church and then in the library for several months.”

As a result, there have been some very welcome and entirely unexpected consequences of the Winter Shelter Art Project. There are now library cards for people without an address which allow them to borrow books and also access to the internet for extended time, which is very important when homeless.

The cooperation between the two organisations has been so positively received that linking with Winter Shelters has now been adopted by libraries Kent-wide as a new and creative approach offering welcome to rough sleeper in their areas.

Library services in West Sussex and Berkshire have also decided to copy the model and positively seek to engage with those who come into their libraries off the streets and build relationships with other local services such as Winter Shelters.

 




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