Freedom Social Projects is a Christian response to meeting the needs of the vulnerable and often socially excluded in our community. With a completely unbiased ethos we welcome everyone who comes to the Freedom Day Centre regardless of religious background, age, gender, sexual orientation, criminal record, current or past addiction and ability level. From the very beginning the services developed have been needs led to meet the requirement of our client group, with a view to encouraging and fostering an environment of growth and change for those who are looking for it.
From a little acorn an Oak Tree is Born.
In the early part of this millennium Freedom church worked with other local churches and agencies by providing volunteers to help run a monthly soup kitchen. It was through this, that we became aware of the needs of vulnerable people in our society and of the problems being faced by so many of these individuals. Initially our involvement concentrated on helping out monthly which soon turned into weekly until we realised there was so much more that could be done. We had a vision and decided to do something about it.
In early 2001 we developed our own weekly soup kitchen from our small premises in Trinity Street close to the town centre. Initially the food being offered was the only attraction but it soon became apparent that people wanted to hang around and mix socially so we began to stay open during the afternoon to provide a safe friendly shelter for a few hours every week.
Over the next 18 months or so the drop-in grew from opening one day a week to three days a week and when possible we provided a simple meal such as beans on toast on the additional days. At that time along side the food which was provided by volunteers, we secured funding for staff resources and were able to offer help, advice, support and also developed a 12 week relapse prevention course for those affected by substance use. In addition through other donations we were able to provide recreational activities such as table tennis and pool and created an environment that promoted fun and social interaction.
For a long time we had known there were no washing facilities available for people living on the streets. The number of homeless people being seen was increasing so in accordance with our ethos of developing needs led services we converted one of our toilets into a shower facility and developed a limited clothes store enabling clients to get a clean change of clothes.
In late 2004 we started to open the drop in 5 days a week, and soon after this we began providing a simple hot meal every day. As time passed the relationship and trust with our clients grew as did the level of support services on offer. By this time we were seeing major transformation in some of our clients and long term substance users were breaking their addictions and living drug free. It was also during this year that our landlord gave us notice to leave our building and this prompted some serious considerations on our part.
From our experience over the previous 3 or 4 years we knew we were only scratching the surface of the needs of our vulnerable client group. What sort of impact would moving premises have on the service we offered to clients?
If we had the opportunity what additional services would we offer?
Where was the best place to house our growing project?
If we moved out of our town centre location would the clients follow us?
After serious thought and planning we signed the lease on our current building in November 2005. The following six weeks saw a few of the team working very long hours on the new building making it fit for purpose and suitable to operate as a day centre whilst the remainder of the team kept the existing facility open and continued to provide the much needed support to clients.
On 3rd January 2006 we opened the doors of our existing building and in the last two years we have experienced phenomenal growth in the number of clients seen and in the positive outcomes of their engagement. As expected the new and improved facilities meant that clients stayed much longer and this has enabled more in depth interventions of help and support. Shortly after moving in the butterfly logo was developed and we felt this captured our desire of seeing lives transformed.
The extra space at the centre enabled us to create a greater range of facilities for our clients. This currently includes a separate dining area for clients to eat in a café style environment; an open plan hall with new pub style pool tables, table tennis and dart board; T V lounge with computers; a versatile training room for the delivery of in house or external courses and to host a range of peer support groups; shower facilities and an extensive clothes store; a well equipped gym / exercise room and a workshop for the development of social enterprise initiatives and work development opportunities.
Our involvement with other organisations has greatly increased such as the Safer North Devon Partnership, Addaction, Carrgomm, Public Health, WTCS, Housing Advice, North Devon College, the Mobile Harm Reduction Unit plus many others.
During 2007 we were busy writing funding bids to develop the project and as a result we have been able to employ a Kitchen Manager. This person oversees the provision of a healthy nutritious meal each day as well as providing management and support to the extensive volunteer team who help out in the kitchen each day. By the end of 2007 the kitchen team had provided over 9700 free meals to our homeless, vulnerable and disadvantaged clients.
When we look back over recent years and consider the successes and growth of the project we understand this would not have been possible without the hard work and commitment from the Staff and Volunteers and from the amazing support from Churches and other groups in the community.
To see the companies and organisations that have supported our work please look at the our supporters part of this site.
It is our aim to continue moving forward and to continue providing services that help transform the lives of our service users. We are committed to demonstrating the heart and love of God to whoever engages with the centre without bias or judgement whatsoever.