Those who move into Hope into Action houses often have a history of not being valued. So it can be overwhelming for them to see the care and attention that has gone into decorating, furnishing and adding thoughtful touches to what will be their new home.
The Rev Sam Cullen, associate priest at St Mary’s, certainly found it deeply moving. The team from her parish had spent two days painting, gardening, cleaning and furnishing the two-bedroomed house. They’d also raised £1,000 so they could buy pictures for the walls, kitchen utensils, crockery, towels, duvets and so on.
So when the first tenant moved in, in July, and when the second followed, in August, it was incredibly rewarding to see their reactions.
“I think the kindness that they saw was almost overwhelming for them,” she said. “It felt almost like a holy moment, and to sit there and listen to their stories was deeply moving. God is at work in Hope into Action, and that kind of love without judgement is exactly what it means to live out the gospel.
“And continuing to support the tenants is highly sensitive work, but it is very rewarding. These people have reached a point where they want to turn their lives around, and having this kind of support allows them to do so. We can value them as people, and also value the contribution that they can make as well.”
An investor supplied the funding for Hope into Action to buy the house that is being supported by the group from St Mary’s Church. The parish decided that it would specifically like to focus on supporting women who have survived domestic abuse, so their two tenants came from a traumatic and abusive background.
The parish recruited a team of six volunteers, who would work on the house and provide support afterwards. Only those people know its address, to ensure the safety of the tenants. The group was given training via Zoom, so they would understand their role clearly.
Worshippers also raised the money to buy items for the house via a recipe book and a reindeer drive last Christmas. And they bought new, high-quality home furnishings, to reinforce how much they value the tenants. One of the local branches of Tesco also offered brand new household items, as part of its community outreach.
And a well as furnishing and decorating, the support team also provided flowers, chocolates, a welcome card and a Bible as housewarming gifts.
Because the tenants are women, they are being supported by women from the group. The volunteer and tenant decide between themselves how regularly to meet up and chat, as they develop their relationship. Subsequent tenants may be supported by others, depending on what makes a good match.
This story featured in the @CofEPortsmouth magazine, Autumn 2021