‘Helping homeless is a hand up, not a hand out’

March 18, 2014


Pat Southgate

HELP WANTED: The Rev Pat Southgate, associate priest to St Peter’s Church, Parkstone, and chaplain to the homeless, who says there is an urgent need for volunteers to come forward to help continue the work of Routes to Roots.


Vanguard Street

MEETING POINT: The Arch way in Vanguard Street where Routes to Roots does to the soup fun for the homeless in Poole during the week.


A CHARITY has been explaining much of the work they do behind the scenes to help the homeless in Poole to help turn their lives around.

Routes to Roots was founded in 2002 and its mission is to give practical help to those on the streets with basic necessities such as hot food, clothing and sleeping bag; help the homeless (if they want to) in getting them off the streets and re-building their confidence through motivational projects.

The Rev Pat Southgate, associate priest to St Peter’s Church, Parkstone, is a founder trustee to the charity and is chaplain to the homeless. She went into depth about the work of Routes to Roots to a small group of people at St Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, Wimborne Road, Poole on Friday 13 March.

She says the charity is always looking for new volunteers to help the homeless with their compassion and in ways that are creative and liberating.

She said: “I have been involved with the homeless for 15 years and it has been a great privilege to be chaplain to the homeless and to be one of those to be the good news to the poor. It will be the 12th anniversary of Roots to Routes being a charity on 22 March and it is made of all the church denominations and others and there are no barriers to working for the homeless.

“Our aim is not to have Routes to Roots but where there are homeless people, we will continue to provide for them. Six to eight people have passed away in just the last year. Sometimes there is nobody for them. Routes to Roots is about a hand up, not a hand-out.

“Years ago it was our dream to have our own premises where we could get people off the streets, give them a shower and look after them and help build up their CVs. We are trying to do creative work with them but in most churches there is a shortage of space.”

When asked by this blog if there was a particular problem among the local  homeless being ex-servicemen, she said there were two or three but there were many more on the streets of London.

Two outreach workers go out in all weathers every week to search for the homeless in the town; to check that they are all right and knowing where they will be. The police are always rung so that they know whereabouts they will be.

As well as giving practical help, providing days to do motivational things to build up shattered confidence has been instrumental. Projects vary from doing embroidery or making pots on weekday afternoons to doing practical conservation on Brownsea Island and managing allotments at Holton Lee, near Upton.

Project Flourish at Holton Lee has helped set up two allotments which the clients run as part of their involvement with Roots to Routes and it’s continual evolvement is down to the clients’ input. They develop skills of team building, social interaction, land crafts and horticulture.

The Rev Southgate said: “We have one or two people who are voluntarily on the streets but on the whole the rest want to be housed. If anyone new is homeless and discovered, they are told there and then that Routes to Roots exists and when and where the soup run is.

“The number sleeping rough varies. It is usually between 12 and 14 but at the last count it was 17. We do not have a large problem in Poole, but it is a significant amount.

“It gets very cold down there and in the winter our help is much appreciated. Since we’ve had Routes to roots we’ve invited the guys in and give them a meal. All the food we us is donated by the community and cooked by us. The drop-in centre is at the United Reformed Church in Skinner Street.

“They are usually very hungry and we give them a hot drink, get them sat down and serve them. Some of the guys who have been on the receiving end become volunteers themselves. Two afternoons a week we get the guys to come and do something motivational. We also have people from bed sits so that they can meet up with us and friends.”

The Roots to Routes wants to see the homeless rooted in their community and to act as an advocate for them to any outside agencies such as the probation service; the police; landlords and addiction teams.

The Rev Southgate says it is her Christian faith and those of the other team members that is the motivation for helping the homeless in the town and acting out the message of the Gospel.

“It is about the message of the Gospel – ‘I was hungry and you fed me’ and ‘I was a stranger and you invited me in’. When we are working with the homeless, we have to respect difference and not demand conformity and if we are ‘befriending them’, we are listen and not to judge.”

  • FOR anyone wanting to volunteer their services, the soup run takes place under the Arch at Vanguard Street at 8pm on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays. There are afternoon activities to help out on at the drop-in centre at Skinner Street from 1.30pm-2.30pm on Monday and Wednesday evenings and 7.30pm-9pm on Tuesday and Friday evenings. Please call the R2R office number on 01202 667880 and introduce yourself first before turning up.


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