ST GEORGE's Crypt, in Leeds (West Yorkshire & the
Dales), has been a beacon of hope to homeless people for
more than 80 years. A large, well-run centre, with an outpost in
Armley, it provides beds, warmth, medical care, counselling, and
training to hundreds of homeless men and women each year.
And now it is celebrating the first anniversary of its
Lighthouse Network, a Christian community for addicts,
ex-offenders, and the homeless which has changed lives. One such is
Tony White (left in photo, with Mark, and the Revd Jon Swales), who
once led the National Front demonstrations in Bradford and
He was driven by the hatred of Islam; his father had been
severely beaten up in Halifax by a Hamas group because of satirical
sculptures he had made of Saddam Hussein. But one day he walked
into a church because he could not stop crying. "I felt out of
control, and kept praying: 'God help me.' But I picked up a Bible,
and had a lightbulb moment. I've been given hope, joy, and peace,
and, after joining a couple of Alpha courses, I've gone on learning
from there." He now regularly attends the Lighthouse.
Mr Swales (right), the member of the clergy team who
co-ordinates the Lighthouse, says that they have set up a Sunday
gathering, as well as a mid-week drop-in and Bible study, for those
who do not feel comfortable in a regular church service.
"Around 40 men and women come on a Sunday," he says, "and
we've built a safe community where people who have little reason to
trust others have established firm friendships. We have a hot meal
and many want to share their story of finding a faith that's helped
them move away from addiction and crime."
He has a Lighthouse team, he says, who spend time on the streets
and in the parks "looking for the most broken; letting them know
that there is hope and a community waiting for them". They also
work with the police, hospitals, and prisons, and send people to
Christian rehabilitation centres, which often take the people that
the secular agencies refuse. "And because they sign off benefits
when they're there, I estimate that we've saved taxpayers tens of
thousands of pounds."
It can be exhausting, he says, to support such men and women
through particular struggles such as violence and addiction.
"Sometimes it is three steps forward and 2.9 steps back. But we're
called 'The Lighthouse Network' because we believe Jesus provides a
light in the storms of life, and direction when we feel like all
hope is lost."