Friends First has been tackling homelessness and social isolation for over ten years. They offer a network of services including supported community living, a drop-in and night shelter, rural and urban enterprise centres and employment support. Friends First received a £5,000 grant from the Cullum Family Fund to support their Growing Together project where socially marginalised people engage in a therapeutic working environment, growing and harvesting fruit and vegetables. The grant has paid towards the salary of site manager Wendy Redwood (pictured). Wendy plans and runs the project, day-to-day, at the 6.5 acre-site near Steyning in West Sussex.
Key to Wendy’s work is the development of care packages for groups of people who may benefit, such as excluded young people and people in rehabilitation. “We have weekly visits by service-users from projects such as St Thomas Fund, another local residential substance misuse rehab project, often as part of individual rehab programmes,” says Wendy. “The work offers them the chance to find some routine and structure in sometimes chaotic lives, develop a sense of self-worth, get out in the fresh air, build skills and and feel part of a productive communty.”
Back on track
Carpenter, plumber and heating engineer Paul James, 45, has been been staying at St Thomas Fund supported housing. Prior to this period of his life, Paul was living what might be considered a mainstream life: a business, wife, kids and plenty of money. After his divorce, he started to use drink as a crutch. “I finally got fed up with drink but it hadn’t got fed up with me,” says Paul. Eventually, he found help. “Other opportunities have opened up to me now,” says Paul. “Most importantly, my parents have their son back and my kids have their dad back.”