When the old Social Club at St. Paul’s Church in Dover was closed it fell into disuse. Lack of funds prevented the parish being able to tear it down and start again; the work of renovating the old social club and its rabbit warren of small adjacent rooms seemed almost impossible. The possibility of rejuvenating the old rooms sounded crazy but the handful of people whose vision the Outreach Centre was were undeterred.

The daunting task fell mainly to volunteers, electricians and plumbers for the specialist work and a builder who came in to make safe the hall floor which had rotted to a precarious cobweb of holes amid crumbling joists and missing floorboards. The build-up of grime and the dust of disuse was left to a few intrepid helpers who scrubbed and cleaned and swept and dusted non-stop for days before paintbrushes could be employed. Inevitably numbers quickly dwindled and in the end only a handful remained; chief of these were two men who had not previously met but who shared one common characteristic: neither were able to stop until they had finished what they had started. Between them they laid new floors, tiled and carpeted, painted and plastered, hung doors and built cupboards – the work seemed endless and so did their determination to complete it!

The Outreach Centre opened with Bob and Peter still working on peripheral tasks, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise. It was not long before two homeless men made significant changes to their lives and began looking for work. At the same time the congregation of St. Paul’s were wondering if the two men who had worked so tirelessly in the Outreach Centre would like to redecorate the church hall as well.

So it was that four men moved just next door and begun the work of renovating the hall and the rooms which almost mirrored those now used by the Outreach Centre. This half of the building was much easier to do though, being clean, in use and more recently loved and cared for. It was however looking a bit tired and in need of brightening up. This turned into an ideal opportunity for Bob and Peter to mentor and teach their two new, previously homeless, recruits. The hall and corridors with the kitchen, storage rooms and staircase were completed successfully and was widely admired by a congregation who were generous in their praise and encouragement towards two men who were now not only working but homed as a result of employment. Another man joined.

The success of the men’s efforts led to requests for other work to be done, foremost of these was the redecoration of St. Paul’s church itself. This was a bigger task, taking almost three months and involving scissor lifts and safety harnesses because the ceiling is around 40ft high!

The workforce moved on as a fourth recruit joined their ranks. The work which the team had lined up kept them busy for some time and more requests continue to come in.

A new Social Enterprise company was set up to run alongside the Dover Outreach Centre homeless charity. The company employs the homeless people who want to work, giving them a stepping stone on their way to independence. Bob and Peter continue to mentor the workers.