Parish of Great Missenden with Ballinger and Little Hampden

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The Old Tea Warehouse

For many years, the church has maintained a link with the Old Tea Warehouse in High Wycombe - an organisation which provides residential facilities for those who are, or are at risk of being homeless, many of whom may also need their drug and drink rehabilitation services.
The facility is run by Riverside ECHG (English Churches Housing Group), and has its own website giving further information - you can also see their brochure

There is an ongoing need for small items like toiletries and non-perishable food items for the residents, and there is a rota system which people may join to support this, or a similar scheme to provide small Christmas and Easter presents - further details of these can be found in the linked documents below.

Latest news (January 2015) from Jim Osbond

The last few months have been quite busy in terms of our support for this hostel for the homeless in High Wycombe.

As the Autumn nights become colder each year the number of those sleeping rough on the streets, and applying for shelter in the OTW, rises to a point when there is a large waiting list for admission. The OTW staff try to help those they have to reject by giving small food parcels, but told us they would like to also offer sleeping bags to those who did not even possess this basic item for keeping warm on the streets.
This was a major challenge so we decided to try asking local retailers if they had any surplus stock or seconds they could donate. After several polite refusals, we finally we struck lucky at Fox’s Outdoor in Amersham, who very kindly gave us a box of brand new sleeping bags, and about 20 survival bags for emergency use. This generous offer has been put to good use, but if any readers have secondhand sleeping bags no longer required they would be put to good use next year.

The day before Christmas Eve, Jane Ray and Jim Osbond set off in Jane’s car (renamed Santa’s Sleigh for the day) to deliver a variety of goodies. We were carrying several large bags of brightly wrapped Christmas presents given by the generous-hearted people of Great Missenden. Once again there was enough to ensure that every resident had at least one present to open on Christmas morning. The staff asked us to pass on their thanks on behalf of the all the residents.

This year we were also carrying a large quantity of foods given in response to a special appeal. The range of foodstuffs given was amazing. We were told by the OTW staff that they were preparing a special meal for the residents on Christmas Day and Boxing Day (normally the residents cook for themselves) and the more perishable items such as mince pies, Christmas puddings, chocolates and biscuits would help to give this meal a festive air.
The other items would be given out as needed during the early part of 2015. Once again thanks are due to all who contributed.

Early in January we received a special call to help Ryan, a resident who had moved through all the OTW rehabilitation programmes, and had made great progress in restoring his personal life. He was now ready to move into an independent flat, but needed help in setting it up. An appeal for items such as kitchen equipment, bedding, rugs, and pictures to hang on the wall and anything to make him comfortable in his new home, resulted again in a generous response.
Jane and Jim took all the items given to his new flat the day after he had first moved in. His flat was pleasant although somewhat bare, but he seemed determined to use all the things we had brought to help make it look like home. So we left him to sort things out in his own time, promising to return later to see if there was anything else he needed. Ryan is a pleasant young man in his mid-twenties, who has previously trained as a chef. We hope and pray he will make a success of his new life, and be able to return to work and full independence in the not too distant future.

Anyone requiring further information on supporting the OTW please contact Jane Ray (862697) or Jim Osbond (863381)


General view of Old Tea Warehouse

In July 2013, some of our congregation went to visit the old Tea Warehouse, and to meet some of the residents there - the following report is from Jim Osbond:


It was on a hot, sunny day in July that 8 members of the congregation led by Jane Ray, our Church contact with the Old Tea Warehouse (OTW), paid a visit to this hostel for needy and vulnerable homeless people, situated near the railway station in High Wycombe. As most readers will know our Parish has supported this project for many years, and our visit was by invitation of the residents who wanted to thank us with afternoon tea and cakes.

This was a first visit for most of us, and it was full of surprises which contradicted many of the preconceived ideas we may have had. We were greeted warmly at the entrance by four members of the Residents Committee who led us into the residents’ lounge where a magnificent spread of goodies had been laid out– far more than we could possibly eat although we made a brave effort! (We were reassured that nothing would go to waste after we left!)

The building itself belies its name, as you can see from the photograph. We found the few parts we saw surprisingly modern, clean and welcoming. Originally built by the English Churches Housing Group in 2001, it is now operated by the Riverside housing association (after a merger in 2006) which has about 60 similar hostels throughout the UK. The OTW was built to provide a much needed service, with priority given to people with local connections who stay between 3 months and a maximum of 2 years - although the average stay is usually about 9-12 months.
It is a large building consisting of 42 rooms divided into flats with four or five basically furnished individual bedrooms, separate WC and shower, with communal kitchen/diner and lounge area. It is a “drug and alcohol free environment”, which are the traps many residents have fallen into before they arrive, and from what we were told the Staff go to considerable lengths to keep it that way with regular breathalyser spot checks etc. There is also separate “move-on” accommodation in six 3-bedroom houses elsewhere in High Wycombe for those who are preparing to leave the OTW and re-enter the world of independence.

There are about fifteen staff, funded by the Churches Housing Trust, who provide support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Perhaps the most important work is done by the 7 Keyworkers (6 residents each) who provide advice and support with life skills, rehabilitation and resettlement in the community. The Support Team Leader is Anna, who came to speak to our congregation earlier this year (unfortunately she was ill on the day of our visit and we were disappointed not to have met her again).

Our hosts were 3 men and one woman all of whom had been resident for several months. All had moving stories to tell, which they were very open to discuss. The common themes were depression, drugs, and alcohol, which their stay in the OTW had enabled them overcome and return their lives to a more stable state. Some of the residents are ex-offenders, and broken marriage and families was a frequent consequence (or cause?) of the problems they faced. The backgrounds of the four residents we spoke to were varied, and demonstrated forcefully that with the wrong combination of circumstances how easy it is for anyone to fall into trouble.
One man, who was born near Great Missenden, and attended grammar school before entering the world of finance, had spent about 9 months in the hostel. Another, an ex-lorry driver, who had also lived nor many miles away from the Parish, had recently moved into one of the “move- on” houses. He is chairman of the Residents Association, and was working towards eventually joining the permanent staff at the OTW. An ex-Royal Marine, seemed very proud of keeping himself fit and was hoping to soon put his military training to good use in the security world. The female resident we spoke to is now living in one of the “move-on” properties, and is also hoping to join the Staff in due course.

Relations with management and staff seemed very positive. The residents we spoke to took great pride in their own and the OTW’s successes and said how they wished for more publicity to create a better image of the OTW in the local community. We were also impressed by the amount of self- help evident i.e. the Residents Association, a buddy-system to encourage each other, and the ambition shown by some to join the permanent Staff and thus help others. Obviously not everyone succeeds in turning their life around , but it was good to hear from one of the residents we spoke to that “there have been no failures (i.e. returning to the streets) in the 7 months I have been here”.

We were asked to pass on to everyone at Great Missenden the gratitude of the residents for the support the OTW receives. They mentioned the welcome packs of toiletries for new residents, the Christmas presents for everyone each year, and particularly the Easter Eggs we sent for the first time this year. Apparently when they came down on Easter Day everyone was amazed and delighted to be confronted by about 70 eggs – as one resident told us “this place is full of people with all sorts of addictions, but by the end of that day we were all chocoholics”. We were then pleasantly surprised to be asked if there is anything the OTW residents can do for us – an offer I think which we must try to find ways to put into effect!

To sum up, on behalf of all the visitors, we agreed the visit was a real eye-opener. We met people with real problems who had succeeded in turning their lives around – we can only hope and pray they are able to maintain this. The Staff at the OTW are working with the needy and the vulnerable in our local society, and deserve every encouragement both for their successes and to cope with those who fall by the wayside. The support of our Church is greatly appreciated, and we only hope we can maintain and perhaps improve on what we do. Anyone who would be willing to join the monthly welcome toiletries pack rota should contact Wendy in the Parish Office. In addition men’s casual clothes, single bedding and any sort of kitchen equipment or small items to make the rooms more comfortable are always needed. More than that we wonder if we could find ways to develop more direct contact with both Staff and residents – if the opportunity arises for you don’t be shy, it can be quite life affirming! For example volunteer mentors are required (training provided); anyone with an interest in this, or with any other queries, should contact Jane (862697) in the first instance.

Jim Osbond

An Easter (2014) Update from Jim Osbond, (OTW Link – St Peter and St Paul)

A few days before Easter three of us delivered about 70 Easter Eggs to this refuge for the homeless in High Wycombe. This was sufficient to give an Egg to every resident on the morning of Easter Day. The Staff have told us of the surprised look on many faces, and their appreciation of the fact that they were remembered by someone. Our thanks are due to the amazing generosity of those who gave to this appeal.

The Church in Great Missenden has supported the Old Tea Warehouse (OTW) for many years with regular donations each month of gift parcels of non-perishable food and toiletries to give to new arrivals, who have probably been sleeping rough. In addition second-hand clothing for men, bedding, single curtains and kitchen equipment are always welcome.

On the occasion of the visit with the Easter Eggs we took the opportunity to catch up with relief manager Paula, who is holding the fort while the full time manager Anna is away on maternity leave (she is due to return in the next few weeks). A current problem, when the main block has accommodation for 42 men and women, is a long waiting list of over 30 applicants. This is apparently a regular situation when the Wycombe Night Shelter, which is supported by many of the High Wycombe Churches, closes its doors for the summer months. Unfortunately this means many will be obliged to sleep rough again until space can be found, which cannot be pleasant - even in the summer months.

Paula also told us of several successes in the two "detox units". Apparently there is a really good spirit of comradeship, with each man helping others who are trying to get off a reliance on alcohol and drugs. However, a new problem has recently arisen with the ready availability of so-called "legal highs" in a shop not too far away from the OTW.
We were shown a drawer full of mainly empty packets of the latest of these designer drugs, some with exotic titles such as "White Tiger" etc. These have now been banned, as are all forms of drugs and alcohol, from the OTW, but it is a regrettable source of temptation. However, the staff carry on regardless in their efforts to support those struggling to live a drug, and alcohol-free life (We were told the location of the shop, but I think I will keep it to myself, as the last thing I would want to do is encourage experimentation by any readers of this esteemed Newsletter!).

So life at the OTW goes on with a dedicated staff helping as many as possible to turn their lives around. They deserve every encouragement, and the support they receive from Great Missenden is greatly appreciated. We will continue to give them all the help and encouragement we can - we already have a volunteer from the congregation who we hope will soon be accepted to help with counselling and mentoring one or more of the residents. Anyone willing to join the monthly welcome food/toiletries pack rota should contact Wendy in the Parish Office (862-352). Offers of help in any other form should be directed to Jane Ray (862-697).

And finally another huge thank you to all who gave an Easter Egg to brighten up a life at Easter time.