The Welcome Centre and Huddersfield Mission have been working together for many years supporting people within the community who are often at their lowest ebb.
Both organisations offer support in varied forms and over the years the idea has formed in many people’s minds that the two organisations are one of the same.
However, the Welcome Centre and Huddersfield Mission are actually completely different organisations with a similar ethos.
To help our supporters understand the similarities and differences, Ellie Coteau, Chief Executive at The Welcome Centre and Paul Bridges, Manager at Huddersfield Mission explain more.
In fewer than 100 words, can you summarise what your charities do?
Ellie: The Welcome Centre is an independent food bank. We provide practical support (food, toiletries, bedding, kitchen equipment, pet food, baby packs) to individuals and families in crisis in Huddersfield and the surrounding area. Last year, The Welcome Centre supported over 4,200 people, more than a quarter of them were children. We also offer an in-house Advocacy, Guidance and Support Service. This one to one support is available to anyone who uses the food bank and needs some additional help addressing the underlying issues causing their financial difficulties.
Paul: Huddersfield Mission is a local charity that is well known for the support we give people who are vulnerable due to homelessness, poverty, mental health or other issues. Our Community Café is open to all and is a safe place for people to eat, meet others and if they need it to get further help and advice. Our advice staff offer advice and support based on a relationship of trust, they provide over 6000 individual advice sessions every year helping people with benefits, housing, finances, and many other issues. As well as our support to people, we also run the Mission building which is used by various charities and organisation for regular meetings, training, conferences and events. About 1000 people use the Mission building every week.
Over the years the two organisations have somehow merged into one for many people. What would you say distinguishes you apart?
Paul: The Mission provides a wide range of support to people including our community café, advice and activity groups. One of the many ways we help people is to make a referral to The Welcome Centre for a food parcel but this is likely to only be part of the help we offer. We help people who may be in crisis but also people who for a variety of reasons may find it hard to manage their lives, without some support. We often work with people for a long time while helping them to access support from a range of other organisations such as the Council or indeed The Welcome Centre.
Ellie: The Welcome Centre is first and foremost a food bank, providing people in crisis with practical support. We are a referral-based charity – the people we support are referred to us from more than 100 external agencies (other charities, statutory bodies, schools, GP surgeries, etc).
The in-house Advocacy, Guidance and Support we offer is only available to people who access the food bank. We offer this service to help people address their underlying situations so they don’t have to become dependent on the food bank long term.
What would you say is your USP?
Ellie: The Welcome Centre food bank has been running for more than 20 years. During this time, we have developed systems that allow us to offer a really high quality service to the people we support. We give out roughly 200 food packs every week, but we’ve got a person-centred approach that means we’re able to tailor each of those packs to the needs and requests of each individual or family.
Paul: Can I have two?
- Our support is based on a relationship of trust.
- We help people with both immediate and long term issues. This means that we might provide a one-off piece of advice but we might support someone for many months, whilst they get help with longer term issues from the Mission and other specialist agencies.
Why do you think people confuse The Welcome Centre and the Huddersfield Mission?
Paul: Many years ago The Mission would often publicise the work of the other organisations based in the building in its own publicity and reports. This was done with the best of intentions but it was not always clear that they were distinct organisations. Unfortunately, this confused message has proved difficult to re-balance!
Ellie: I think the fact that The Mission and The Welcome Centre are next door neighbours is probably the main cause for confusion! And of course, we’ve worked very closely in partnership over the years and will continue to do so, in the interests of the vulnerable people we both support.
What makes the Mission and The Welcome Centre so vital to the community and what do you need most from the public in the form of support?
Ellie: I can probably answer this one for the both of us –we need financial support! Speaking solely on behalf of The Welcome Centre, the demand for our service increases year on year, and so does the cost of delivering our service. Financial support allows us to buy the things we need, when we need them. That might mean buying stock to go out in food packs, or it might mean paying our utilities bills to keep the electric turned on at the Centre – financial donations give us flexibility, which as a relatively small charity is vital.
Paul: As above! Over the last four years, the need for our advice service has increased threefold, and we are also seeing a growing number of people who are homeless, in some form. At this time of increased demand, people can support us, through volunteering, financial donations or through a fundraising or awareness-raising event. We also would encourage people to understand the issues behind homelessness, mental health poverty etc.
How do the services work together? What kind of initiatives are you both involved in?
Paul & Ellie: Many of the people who access the Mission Café for advice go on to access practical support through The Welcome Centre. In fact, the Mission Café is the largest referrer into The Welcome Centre. Because there is so much overlap between the people we support, we work together closely on a day to day basis.
We also work together on special projects. For instance, The Mission donated space in their building free of charge for The Welcome Centre’s 2019 Feeding Families project during the summer holidays. And The Welcome Centre has developed joint resources and training that are available to both charities’ clients, such as a ‘back to basics budgeting’ course. Both organisations are also involved in the Street Outreach Good practice group.
In one sentence, what would you like people to take away from this Q&A?
Paul: Huddersfield Mission and The Welcome Centre both provide much needed support to local people. Our work is complementary in many ways but we are distinct and separate charities.
Ellie: That The Welcome Centre and the Huddersfield Mission are two separate charities, providing equally essential support to our community’s most vulnerable people.
You can find out more about Huddersfield Mission on their website http://huddersfieldmission.org.uk/