In 1997 we started providing temporary accommodation in our church building (Southport) for homeless individuals and families. We used our fellowship room, a garage that we had converted, a caravan on the church site and the church cellar. All these places we had sought to make as pleasant as possible, but the local environmental health department informed us that, though we were providing a valuable service, it was contravening the law. So in March 1999 when a young family stood on the steps of our small church, we decided to purchase two flats and Green Pastures was born. The years since then have been some of the most wonderful that we have experienced in the service of God.
Our first resident, a single mother aged 21, had been living in one room with her baby. What a joy it was to be able to help her and to fulfill God's word. In Galatians 2:10 Paul writes: 'They desire only that we should remember the poor: the very thing that I was also eager to do.' It had appeared to us that the 21st Century church was not so eager to help the poor as the early church had been. Perhaps through Green Pastures we shall be able to encourage that eagerness to return. In 1995 we started our first partnership outside Southport and started housing the homeless in Manchester. Today we have partners all over the UK who are housing hundress of formerly homeless people. We have seen some amazing changes in people just because we have been able to give them a key to their own home. Alcoholics are now free from their alcohol addiction; drug addicts are now free from their drug addiction; unemployed young people with life skills problems are now working. Mothers who had been brutally beaten are now housed with their children in secure accommodation; people with mental health problems are housed and cared for. But most wonderful of all is the number of people who have come to Christ, not through our preaching of the Gospel, but by our doing the Gospel.
We dream of homelessness ending in the UK. Through our partners we aim to soon be housing more than 1,000 people and we dream of every church in the UK having one house to house the homeless. That would mean an additional 100,000 people would be housed and cared for.