When people meet together in church, there is often a desire to do the work Jesus has told us to do, which is to heal the sick, feed the poor and look after the orphan and the widow. As we worship, our response is to get involved in practical action which demonstrates God’s love. When we encounter God’s love for us in Jesus, we learn that we are to love our neighbour as ourselves…
It is not difficult to see that in our community, there is social inequality, injustice, and in Southend particularly, many experience food poverty as a result of low incomes or the effects of living on state benefits. There are many who are unemployed, sanctioned by the DWP, existing on universal credit, on low incomes, have zero hour contracts, have mental health conditions or have long term disabilities…
Jesus taught a rich young man that if he wanted to find the kingdom of God, he had to sell everything he had and give it to the poor. He went away disappointed because he had great wealth and couldn’t bring himself to do this for he felt his wealth was what made him honourable. Jesus turns this principle on its head as explained in the story of the Good Samaritan.
Jesus reveals that the Samaritan, full of compassion, was able to ignore gender, race, ethnicity, social status, religion, and the opinion of others, to go beyond the call of duty, and offer hospitality to those we encounter along our journey. Those that do this, are considered to be faithful…
The Storehouse Story…
The Storehouse grew out of our Sunday morning services, where we would collect food from the congregation and give it away during the week. We would invite people into our church for our morning services and provide a welcome lunch… these elements of invitation and hospitality still form the main part of what we still do today at the Storehouse. Jesus said ‘come to me. all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28).
At first, we rented a shop in Station Road, Westcliff, which became our community cafe and a place we could distribute food. When we bought our first building in Bircham Road, we moved everything to this location and saw the number of people using the service rise. It became necessary to move the church again, which is how we ended up using the Coleman Street Community Centre.
In collaboration with Southend Borough Council, we took on a 10 year lease to operate the building and maintain it, in exchange for being granted change of use as the Storehouse.
On a usual day, the Storehouse will have approximately 180 service users visit us for a food bag and a meal in our community cafe. We collect 7 tonnes of food each week from local supermarkets: Sainsbury’s, TESCO, Lidl, Ocado, Gregg’s, M&S, MAKRO, Morrison’s and Waitrose.
We have 3893 registered users of the Storehouse. The population of Southend is estimated at 180,000 people, which means that 2.1 percent of the population are registered users of the Storehouse.
We have sessions that suit the different types of users of the Storehouse. We have a Women’s session for those who find it difficult to be around men, a Family Storehouse Session for parents with school age children (a referral is required to use this service), a FridayMovie@2 with movie review, and a monthly Sunday Evening Worship Service with an evening meal.
We like to offer people as much support as we can. We are not all specialists, but there is a lot of support available for people from our partner agencies. We have three staff, a Tenancy and Housing Support Worker, a Women’s Key Worker, and a Community Outreach Worker. We have close links with HARP, STARS, MIND, DWP, Peabody, Citizens Advice, Local Policing, Southend Borough Council, Children’s Centres, Southend BID, Better Southend…
We also run a furniture restoration workshop called RE:Store. This is a short course in using ‘shabby-chic’ paint techniques, utilising stencils, patterned papers and decoupage, chalk paint, knocking-back/distressing techniques and general maintenance of furniture. The course has an eight week time line but this can be adapted and altered as required. We are willing to accept anyone simply wanting to learn a new hobby, through to those who are out of work, those having left prison finding themselves in need of a routine, through to young people (Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET).
11:30 – 12:30 Mixed Adult Session (Public)
13:00 – 14:00 Mixed Adult Session (Public)
09:30 – 11:30 Family Storehouse (Referral only session)
13:00 – 14:00 Women ONLY Session (Public)
11:30 – 12:30 Men ONLY Session (Public)
13:00 – 14:00 Mixed Adult Session (Public)
14:00 – 15:00 Friday Movie@2 and Reflection
19:00 Storehouse Service (On the last Sunday of each month)
What to expect at the Storehouse…
Each session that we are open, we offer refreshments, sandwiches and a hot meal in our community cafe. We have staff available to signpost guests to the relevant agencies that partner with the Storehouse.
We have a Tenancy and Housing Support Worker who can connect you with the advice you need with landlords, rent arrears and Universal Credit. We also have a Women’s Support Key Worker whose role is to help our guests who have experienced difficult circumstances requiring specific help that is discrete and confidential. We also have a Community Outreach Key Worker whose role is to help the residents of the forthcoming Queensway Development have someone to contact, as this major project starts to take shape.
We also have a specific session on Wednesday mornings, called: Family Storehouse. It was quite clear to us that the number of families requiring access to the Storehouse made it difficult for us to provide the correct levels of safeguarding for our younger guests. The Family Storehouse is a referral-only service. Your social worker, health visitor, children’s centre, nursery, or school can refer you to this session.
When you visit Family Storehouse, we have a number of different activities for you to get involved with. Breakfast is provided and we have stay and play, breast feeding advice, children’s centre enrolment and pop-up parenting sessions.
The Storehouse is located at the Coleman Street Community Centre, Coleman Street, Southend SS2 5AW. (Please don’t send correspondence to this address.)
As part of our mission statement, we have this teaching from Jesus, found in Matthew’s Gospel:
“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me.” Matthew 25:35–36 …and we are just trying to follow in his footsteps.