Support at Washington Court

“Everything had gone wrong for me in the town where I was living. I just had to get away. I ended up in Birmingham. I had nowhere to go, I didn’t know anyone, so late that night I asked the police for help and they sent me to the Mission at Washington Court. I could have ended up anywhere but I’m sure now that God organised it for me to come here. I was an atheist then, but now I’m learning to follow Jesus and trying to do my bit to help others at the Mission.”

There but for the grace of God...

Every Washington Court resident, male or female, has a different story. Some arrive in the middle of the night with nothing but the clothes they stand up in. Others are referred by another agency and may bring six bags with all but the kitchen sink in them! They all have one thing in common: they are homeless.

‘The Mission’, as Washington Court is affectionately known by residents and outside agencies, has accommodated over 1,500 homeless people since its opening in 1995. It has housed the Good, the Bad and the Struggling. Some have stayed only one night; others one, two, three months and even years. The average stay is three to four months.

 

Quality accommodation

The quality of accommodation is excellent – fully furnished single rooms in small, secure cluster units with fitted carpets all round, shared television lounge, kitchen, bathroom and shower (not en suite!) and telephone line to reception. Typical residents’ comments are: “This is as good as a hotel, except for the ‘No drinks’ rule!” “The food’s terrific.” “The staff are friendly and really helpful. I wish I’d known about this place before.”

Changing lives

One well known resident has frequently arrived at the door so drunk that he has flopped down semi-conscious outside after ringing the bell. Having been helped inside to collect his key from reception only to sink to the floor again, it has needed two members of staff to lift him to his feet and half carry him, feet scraping the floor, to his room to sober up. Another two long-term residents have to be taken to the bath on a regular basis because they get into such a mess on the streets, drinking all day.

In the past this kind of behaviour would have resulted in eviction from the old Granville Street Hostel and even at Washington Court. Now the aim is to try to manage a change of behaviour and help such residents find a way of living without the need to be constantly drunk. But anyone who has heard even a small part of the history of some of these people cannot help but have sympathy with their behaviour and respond,  “There but for the grace of God go I!". Staff are finding that showing love and mercy in the face of swearing and abuse eventually wins respect and a willingness to listen to the Gospel. One of these men in his more sober moments now often voices his love for God and his need of Jesus as Saviour and asks staff to pray for him. So although Washington Court has a smart reception, fitted carpets and computerised accounts it is very much in the business of meeting the needs of the most needy, those who would otherwise be down and out in the gutter.

The introduction to our Support Policy of Washington Court is: ‘As an agent of Trident Housing Association the primary purpose of BCM Washington Court is to provide supported housing rather than ‘care’ and confidence to move into more permanent accommodation.’ Most residents now only stay for a few months until they are helped to find their own flat and move on. Some have now moved into the bedsit flats in the Trident section of the Washington Court complex and are managing their own lives again after years of institutional dependency. We believe that for most this is the best way forward as long as any support they need is offered to them.