The Matthew 25 Mission, based in the Seaside area, provides food, clothing and basic necessities to people throughout the year, as well as sympathetic pastoral care that is designed to get them back on their feet in trying times. The charity has grown in size over the last three years to meet increased demand for its services, firstly as the effects of austerity hit statutory provision and more recently as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The vast majority of guests at the Matthew 25 Mission are in some way vulnerable, marginalised, disadvantaged and isolated. They are faced with an array of social, emotional and physical challenges, including homelessness, addiction, family break-up, disability, mental illness, unemployment, probation and loneliness, and invariably have multiple difficulties that are further compounded by material poverty.
The pandemic not only exacerbated the troubles faced by established guests, but also created a new cohort of people in need of support, as a result of unemployment, debt, family problems or physical and mental health issues.
For some guests, intervention is short-term, but the majority of the charity’s beneficiaries are supported over protracted periods of time through a variety of programmes:
Already reaching upwards of 100 guests before the Covid-19 outbreak, the Matthew 25 Mission’s provision of nutritious meals has expanded since March 2020, and now routinely helps feed over 250 people per week. The charity served over 50,000 meals in 2020 and are on course to serve 50,000 in 2021.
Many of the guests live in significant poverty, compounded by other problems, and in response, the charity provides a range of material support, including clothing, essential travel, hairdressing, medical supplies, kitchen equipment, bedding and camping gear. During the winter of 2020/2021, they operated a small support fund for families facing fuel poverty and other forms of economic hardship.
When keyworkers first meet a guest, they establish a relationship that forms the basis of a triage approach, through which guests’ needs can be prioritised. Initial support takes a variety of forms: practical guidance, active listening, and immediate problem solving. Once established, the relationship with a key worker ensures that guests have a secure and familiar point of reference and assistance, which has no time limit placed upon it. In some cases - for example, negotiating access to mental health or addiction provision - the keyworker may work intensively with the guest for several months.
Signposting to other sources of support
All the charity’s staff have strong links with other agencies in the town and beyond, which enable guests to access a wider range of services than those offered directly by the charity. During the last year, they have established regular sessions with the local Citizen’s Advice Bureau, Rapid Rehousing Project, Star/Lift House Addiction Service, the Rough Sleepers’ Initiative and a local GP.
Despite the strong connections that the Matthew 25 Mission has with other providers, relationships between guests and official bodies are often fraught and can feel intimidating to the weaker party. In these circumstances, the charity’s staff may be deployed as advocates for guests, for example in court or in official meetings.
The charity offers various activities, which serve a number of complementary purposes: engagement, interest, diversion, skills development, social interaction. The current offer includes gardening, art, fitness training, workshop activities and IT skills development.
How you can help
The Matthew 25 Mission supports approximately 500 guests per annum and, during the last three years, has provided services to 1,040 guests – and that’s why your support is more important than ever. Volunteers are needed for their charity shop, which helps to raise funds by selling low cost pre-loved clothing, toys, books and household items to the local community. You could also donate these items to the shop, where they will be prepared for sale.
Of course, a monetary donation will also make a difference, no matter how big or small. You can donate by visiting the Matthew 25 Mission’s website at https://www.matthew25mission.org, where you can also download a plan for a donation box, that could be kept in your office, cafe or anywhere else that people frequent.