Horsham charity standing by people in crisis at Christmas

ARK Horsham family sharing a meal at the town's United Reformed Church in Springfield Road
ARK Horsham family sharing a meal at the town's United Reformed Church in Springfield Road

Every week a Horsham charity helps hundreds of people through unemployment, homelessness and other difficulties.

ARK Horsham operates out of the town’s United Reformed Church in Springfield Road and runs a drop in session Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Horsham Salvation Army Toy Appeal 2014 - Major Ann Stewart is (far left front) and Major Iain Stewart (far right front) with volunteers with some of the prenents already donated - picture submitted

Horsham Salvation Army Toy Appeal 2014 - Major Ann Stewart is (far left front) and Major Iain Stewart (far right front) with volunteers with some of the prenents already donated - picture submitted

Twice a week everyone there shares a hot meal together building on the ethos of the charity being like a family. On Christmas Day they will have Christmas dinner together.

Chief executive officer and founder Lisa Burrell said: “ARK is about meeting the needs of a lot of people with social isolation, helping people move forward from homelessness, addictions and other life controlling issues to fulfil their potential.

“People with PhDs come in - professionals, bankers - whose lives are falling part and they need some space and time to recover and relax.”

The charity has been running for about four and a half years now.

Lisa said: “It’s developed in line with the need so from the beginning there were 19 people coming in and now we have about 60 people in on a daily basis.

“We organise emergency food parcels, housing advice, help with applying for benefits, accessing medical services, interventions with drug and alcohol, referrals to other services and signposting to other things that are needed.

“It’s a safe place for people to come and grow emotionally and share life. It’s a family - that’s why it works.

“We share the good and the bad. We don’t judge.”

One of the key areas of the charity’s work is helping people move on once they are ready to.

Lisa said: “This year we have had five people go off to rehab. We have seen people go from having no confidence - not as much as making eye contact - to seeing their confidence grow and getting their relationships with their families back; getting back into the workplace or from sleeping on the streets to managing a tenancy.

“Another situation would be going from not engaging in any service to managing their mental health. It can be as simple as registering with a GP.

“One of the things with ARK is being a fixed address. People don’t have the opportunity to register with a GP so we can give them that opportunity.”

“They are human beings”

Mother of two Lisa Price first came to ARK for help and she now also volunteers to help others.

She said: “It’s turned my life around. I’m out at least three days a week. I’ve had a couple of set backs.

“They have given me something to do. They set me up on the events team and we have got to go out and promote ARK.

“It’s adult company for me. Even if you don’t want to talk, it helps if you want to have that confidential conversation.

“It can change your views about the homeless and those with alcohol problems.

“We treat them as humans. Here they have got a name, they have got a life. They are human beings.”

Lena, 25, found help at ARK when she was suffering with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

She said: “I moved from Crawley to Horsham and didn’t know anybody. It was a place to come when I felt scared. It really brought me out of myself with PTSD and increased my confidence.

ARK is founded on the Christian faith, however it is not something force upon people.

“Lisa (Burrell) has led me back to God. I came out of things I was into and if you don’t want to talk, people understand.”

“I’m a Buddist, so that’s what I was worried about. There are a lot of people I met here that I wouldn’t have chance to meet. They’ve got me into education.”

Brian Furber finds confidence in designing and drawing simple pictures for others to enjoy. Last week he brought in hundreds of pieces of artwork for an exhibition at the church.

ARK senior support worker Maria Stack said: “This has given him a positive focus. We have seen him develop and grow. He has done some bright pictures and got some other members of ARK colouring them in.

“It’s an enormous inclusive piece of work. He is not precious about it.”

Lisa Burrell added: “It is something the whole ARK family has been able to partake in. Putting pen to paper can be therapeutic.”

Collections

On Saturday December 6 and Sunday December 7, volunteers will be greeting shoppers at the Horsham Waitrose store in the hope they will give an item or two towards the charity’s foodbank.

Items they need for Christmas and throughout the year include tinned food, pasta, rice, jarred food, toilet rolls and basic toiletries.

The charity is always looking for more volunteers and on January 24 and 25 they are booked to have a pop-up shop in Swan Walk.

People will be able speak to current volunteers about its work and find out how they can get more involved.

For more information go to thearkhorsham.org.uk