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The Revd. Dr. Neil Richardson and Ludlow Chapel minister Revd. Kim Stilwell took part in a Sleep Out supporting a fight against funding cuts that may result in the closure of The Foyer, a crucial housing initiative for vulnerable young people, based in Ludlow. Ludlow Chapel facilities were opened overnight for those taking part and the Wesley’s Café team provided them with a cooked breakfast.
The Sleep Out, which saw twenty-five people sleep at the Buttercross and along the pavement of High Street, was organised by Peter Norman, who was on the board of South Shropshire Housing Association which, over fifteen years ago, bought the property and set up The Foyer. He said, ”To my mind it does a very good service in terms of getting young people (16–25 year olds ), who are at a fairly critical point in their lives and perhaps run into difficulties, into independent living through training, mentoring, advice and shelter essentially.”
The Foyer is currently under threat from both government changes in Housing Benefit regulations and cuts to Shropshire County Council support. According to Peter Norman, The Foyer, which currently provides accommodation and support for fifteen young people, faces a potential loss of approximately £100 000 from each of those sources. “This is essential to cover the extra staffing costs, the extra security costs, the extra training etc, over and above the accommodation that they get.”
Revd. Stilwell who got involved through Hands Together Ludlow commented on the local concern. “The danger that if it is closed and those people will be turned out on the streets with nowhere to go is a very worrying situation.” Earlier in the day, a stall set up at Ludlow market raised awareness of the issue with a petition which gathered 640 signatures. “If we get 1000 signatures on the petition to the County Council they have to debate the issue in full Council and they are due to make decisions on their budget for next year during September.” Peter Norman informed.
One of the directors at Shropshire Housing Group Ann Sutcliffe who slept out under the Buttercross arches praised the effort. “I want to say just how amazing it is to be here with all these people who live in Ludlow who care about it and I don’t think there’s many towns where the local people care so much about their young people that they are prepared to sleep out like this. It’s fantastic. It’s really moving.”
Mayor of Shrewsbury Ioan Jones, Local Councillor Alan Townsend and Shrewsbury Town Council’s Robert Handley were among the guests at a Dedication Service for the recently opened Hermitage Centre, at Belle Vue Chapel. The service follows a long period of refurbishments to the buildings made possible largely by a generous legacy from Kath Bate and grant funding of £10,000 from Veolia Environmental Trust, £3,000 from Shrewsbury Town Council, as well as Circuit funding and several fundraising initiatives led by Belle Vue members and friends, plus donations they have made.
Leading the service Revd. Silas Wood thanked all of the funders, the architects, builders, electricians and the myriad of people who have helped in so many ways towards completion of the project. His appeal to continue encouraging local community groups to fully utilise the premises and for those working and worshipping within the church to encourage each other, were echoed by District Chair Revd. Rachel Parkinson who gave the address. The newness, she said, would reinvigorate “that family of people here who love God and love each other as Jesus loves each one of you. That holy love of God that, people coming into this building will be able to sense, it will pervade the whole atmosphere.”
The drive to assess what funds were necessary then set about raising the amount, Revd. Wood said, started with a single church member, Mervyn Bradley taking on a sponsored swim. Special mention was also made of Martin Beardwell who rigorously completed grant applications, and Mike Hallworth who tirelessly oversaw and co-ordinated the project, keeping people informed of the progress. All at Belle Vue Chapel are pleased with the results; the expansion and transformation of parts of the building from its former state of disrepair, and the opportunities the building now provides for the local community to be welcomed, to a comfortable space, where they can share in God’s love.