Needy seek out Open House for friendly support

31 July 2013

An Open House volunteer serving guestsIn the 18 months since St Mary's Open House in Sunderland welcomed its first guests, the drop-in café for people who are homeless, living with addictions, have little or no money, or who have mental health issues has also become a reputable and dependable focal point for help and support in the city.

St Mary's Open House is one of fifteen PACE (Parish and Community Enablement) projects run by volunteers and set up by local parishes around the region with the support of St Cuthberts Care. The project is a lifeline for those in need of food and company, but its growing reputation as a welcoming source of reliable information was also underlined recently when a gentleman sought out the help of the volunteers to find a local food bank.

Project volunteer Tony Taylor said, "He had been given the food bank voucher, but didn't know where to go or what to do and turned to us for help, which we were more than happy to provide. We have built up a wealth of useful knowledge and are able to provide leaflets on the various resources available across Sunderland, including where to find food, health care, personal support and many other key services”.

Volunteers running the project have also developed strong links with a range of agencies and organisations offering support. These include regular visits by representatives from the Cyrenians, the local SVP and Sunderland City Council's homeless unit who call in to talk informally to guests and volunteers. The project is also supported by St Cuthberts Care's 5p Bus service which provides clothing and other essential items at just 5p each.

The drop-in café is held every Thursday in St Mary's Parish Hall on Bridge Street, Sunderland between 10am and 1pm.