Charissa King visits a parental support project in Southampton
Twenty-six years ago, the congregation of Avenue St Andrews United Reformed Church in Southampton noticed that the families living in bedsits nearby had nowhere to go during the day. They had to quit their rooms by 10am, not to return until evening. The church made one of its rooms available to them, providing them with laundry facilities, coffee and a sympathetic ear. Out of this kindness, The Avenue Centre – an award-winning programme of empowerment for young parents – was born.
The centre now offers services for 35 disadvantaged families a year, referred to them by crisis centres, social services and local authorities. It offers parents practical support and advice: Monthly cookery sessions focused on healthy eating, internet facilities, talks given by health and social care professionals, sewing lessons, anger management classes, financial advice, “emotional first aid” classes for fathers, and clothes washing/drying machines.
On the day of my visit, Donna Wellington, the centre’s coordinator, leads a session on safeguarding children from sexual abuse. “But it’s not all drudge,” she says, telling me of the forthcoming belly dancing classes the mums are looking forward to.
The Avenue Centre allows mums to meet others in similar situations, who have suffered domestic violence, or sexual abuse, or are battling with depression. One mum says that before coming to the centre she was isolated: “It’s helped me to be around people I can talk to,” she said.
This is an extract from the April 2014 edition of Reform.