Beginnings of Hope Community
Hope Community began in 1985 when Sisters of the Infant Jesus moved onto the Heath Town Estate in Wolverhampton. They started knocking on doors and discovered that people were living in fear in their own homes, frightened to come out; they spent their time listening to the stories of the people, to their lives, to the injustices they faced every day and 33 years later, Hope is still listening. Unemployment was above the national average and many people felt forgotten by society, the church and even their own families. By listening to the people, the very desperate needs of families living there were first highlighted. They were joined over the years by many willing volunteers from all over the world.
In 1994 the project formed a partnership with Father Hudson’s Society (now known as Father Hudson’s Care) enabling it to employ staff and providing support in administration, management and fundraising, and so the first lay people were employed. Guided by the needs of local people the project evolved and developed and in 1999, with funding from the Henry Smith Charity, opened a family centre in the heart of the estate. In 2005 the last Infant Jesus Sister moved from the estate and the work continued with a small paid staff team and volunteers.
Hope Community registered as an independent charity in December 2010, with the Infant Jesus Sisters, Father Hudson’s Care and the Archdiocese of Birmingham (represented by St Patrick’s Church) as the founding trustees. Hope also has representation on its Board of Trustees from other churches, organisations and individuals and appreciates support received, in particular from Holy Trinity, Heath Town.
History of the Partnership Founders
Hope Community Project was founded as a partnership between the Infant Jesus Sisters (a religious order within the Roman Catholic Church) and Father Hudson’s Society, now Father Hudson’s Care, (the social care agency for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Birmingham).
Hope Community is now an independent charity with the same ethos and values.
The vision and spirit of the founders of the two organisations, and the men and women, who have followed in their footsteps, is important to understand the uniqueness of the project.
Background to the Infant Jesus Sisters and their founder Nicolas Barré
Nicolas Barre was born on 21st October 1621 in France. He was a Catholic and eventually became a monk.
Nicolas founded the Infant Jesus Sisters in 1662 in Rouen, France. At that time half the children in Rouen died of famine. Many were homeless and wandered the streets as beggars, and for some prostitution was the only means of livelihood.
Nicolas was very aware of what was happening around him – especially among the most destitute – and he felt called to make some response. He conceived the idea of a Charitable Institute for those who had no access to any form of education, and were generally neglected by society. The first helpers taught reading, writing and practical skills, but their primary purpose was to give religious instruction to children, young people and adults, especially those most in need. The child was the primary focus. Nicolas was insistent that those who wanted to be of service would do so without taking vows and acquiring the status and security which being a religious sister gave. They were to share the insecurity of the poor who did not have a guaranteed income. In this way they would be in solidarity with the most neglected in society.
In keeping with this spirit, members of the Institute gave themselves voluntarily to the work for variable periods of time, from 1 month to a year or more. They visited children in their own homes to see their family circumstances and the reality of their lives.
Today the Sisters continue working with the poor, marginalised and deprived can be found in Birmingham, Burton-on-Trent, Crawley, Horsham, Liverpool, London and Wolverhampton and in many countries throughout the world.
Father Hudson’s Care and Their Founder Father George Vincent Hudson
Father Hudson’s Care is the name adopted in 2015. Known as Father Hudson’s Society since 1984, a name it still uses for legal and contractual purposes, the organisation was established in 1902 as the Birmingham Diocesan Rescue Society for the protection of homeless and friendless Catholic children. At the beginning of the twentieth century, Pope Leo XIII invited bishops from around the world to establish some special work of charity. The Archdiocese of Birmingham responded by asking Father George Vincent Hudson to lead on this work of caring for children. Father Hudson established a network of children’s homes in Coleshill and Birmingham. He was seen as ahead of his time housing children after 14 years old, the usual age of leaving homes, and supporting them into the world of work. Over the 20th century the organisation continued to change and develop, registering as an adoption agency in 1944, opening more work focused homes including one for girls and a farm, providing hospital’s services to serve the whole community focusing on disability and since the 1980’s developing fostering.
In the 1990’s Father Hudson’s developed residential services for older people and disabled people. At the same time the trustees developed new community projects with other like-minded partners, usually religious sisters. Ever since then the trustees have remained committed to this vision. In the community, the Anawim, Hope and Brushstrokes projects have led the way. Other Community Projects established in the last 10 years include New Heights and Maryvale in Birmingham and more recently Young at Heart in Staffordshire, Fatima House in Birmingham, Embrace in Worcestershire and Tabor House in Birmingham.
Where We Are Now
Hope Community has a team of 8 paid members of staff and 41 dedicated volunteers. We are dependent on grant and trust funding for our services which are crucial to people often overlooked and who slip through the net. Working in a preventative way we build relationships of trust with people of all ages; the young at risk of becoming involved in negative life styles; women experiencing challenging situations in their lives; older people at risk of becoming isolated and lonely in their own homes; people who feel they have no future; people young and old who have no aspirations.
We believe that everyone has a value and with support can move forward to become the best that they can be.
Based at the heart of the Heath Town Estate in Wolverhampton, we are very proud of our place in the community working alongside and with our service users. We build relationship of trust with people, listen to them and take action to help and deliver the right support, when they need it. We understand the presenting needs but one of the unique things about Hope is that through our way of working we identify underlying needs which are often hidden. This trust has been built over 30 years and we are extremely proud and privileged to be this committed, long term support to people who need a helping hand, despite the barriers and challenges they face.
The estate is typical of the design in the 1960s with high rise tower blocks and low rise maisonette blocks. It is one of the most deprived and ethnically diverse communities falling within the worst 5% of wards nationally in terms of health, education, employment, housing, crime, and child poverty. 45% of children live in poverty. It is ranked within the city’s top 3 areas for high levels of drugs, gang violence and youth crime. Domestic violence, drugs and alcohol abuse are prevalent within households on Heath Town estate – Office of National Statistics, 2011 Census, 2012 Heath Town Ward Profile, and 2014-16 Heathfield Park Local Neighbourhood Plan. This deprivation and violence seriously affects the lives of the children and young people who disclose fears and reprisals of gang affiliation, grooming, and sexual exploitation. They fear becoming like family members – generational non-workers, gang members, with no aspirations.
Families struggle with lack of funds due to unemployment or benefit sanctions, which impacts on their relationships and ability to provide a stable home life for the children.
Many older people live in fear of leaving their own homes or become isolated through the loss of their spouse, partner or friends. As they grow older their physical and mental health suffers and this can affect their ability to attend important GP or other medical appointments.
Heath Town is home to people from all parts of the world. For many years the population was mainly Afro-Caribbean and white but since 2001 the area has welcomed asylum seekers, refugees and migrants from other European countries, at the last count there were 41 different languages spoken in the area.
We work with the most vulnerable and isolated people, some who have no recourse to public funds, which financially excludes and socially isolates them.
The focus of the work remains the same as when it began in 1985 which is to seek out and find the most vulnerable and isolated people in our midst and to integrate and help build a successful multi-cultural community where the gifts of each individual are recognised and appreciated.
It is a privilege to be trusted and welcomed into people’s lives and homes during some of the most challenging, sad, happy or difficult times in their lives.
‘Whatever happens, be always at peace and trust in God. What you experience will be in proportion to your faith, your hope and your love and even more abundantly than that.’
(Letter 61. Nicolas Barré – Founder of the Infant Jesus Sisters)
How We Work
- Hope Community belongs to the community
- We are often out and about, asking people how they are and how we can help
- Our doors are open to those needing support
- We listen and keep in touch with people, visiting, working with them and their family to overcome problems
- We work with others to strengthen the community and promote integration
- We do not judge and will provide honest, independent advice
- We are there for everyone in the community
- A Christian ethos remains central to the life and work of the project and is embedded in our core organisational values and strategy
Hope is an inspirational, Christian inspired organisation which is passionate about the Heath Town area. We work in a positive, solution focused way with the community we serve; seeking to create opportunities for people to develop their full potential.
- Actively responsive
Hope speaks to local people and actively responds to local need. We help to remove barriers, build resilience and work with people to improve their lives and the community.
Hope works with respect for each other, local people and partner agencies. We are reliable, trustworthy and work in a non-judgemental way.
Hope is a caring organisation. We put people at the centre of all we do. We are here to listen with patience and aim to understand all those we work with and for.
Hope works holistically, with faith, love and fellowship; all central and reflective of our Christian ethos.
Hope is a welcoming, inclusive and non-judgemental organisation. We celebrate diversity within our community and we are at the heart of the community we serve.