We help those in need. Our family of volunteers is here to offer shelter, support, and a listening ear to those in our community who need it most
M came to the UK in 2012 to work on a strawberry farm. He was subjected to forced labour - a victim of modern day slavery.
“A friend said he could help me to find work. I was picked up the next day at 6am and after a 12-hour shift the boss gave me £15 and told me to take it or leave it. I needed the money. I could not get benefits, I had no money for food and I had rent arrears.
This carried on for a couple of months with me feeling like I had no choice. Sometimes I got paid less if the boss felt like he had not made enough profit. It came to the point where I could no longer afford to live where I was living so the boss said he would take me in. We took my belongings and he drove me to the depot where I worked and he told me I could sleep on the back seat of one of the cars there.
Eventually, this was upgraded to me sleeping in a lorry but after 2 months he asked me to pay him £30 rent per week. I was working long hours for very little pay. I had no toilet, no shower and no hot water. My water came from an old garden hose and I had to drink from this as well as use it to shower. This was ok in the summer but in the winter it was sometimes frozen so I had to go without.
I threatened to leave unless I was put on the books but it just turned into an argument. I had nowhere to go so what was I to do? I never went to the doctor or the dentist. I never went out. In fact, sometimes he would lock me in for three days without food.
One day I escaped. I just made a run for it not knowing where I was going. I had heard about the Good Shepherd Ministries at Darlington Street Methodist Church. I thought if I went down there the brothers might help me to get somewhere to sleep and something to eat. I also wondered whether maybe someone could help me to stop this man from ever doing this again to anyone else.
They gave me hot food and food to take away. They listened to my story and promised they would do everything they could to help and sent me to the Church Shelter on Broad Street. I stayed there for one week.
Without the Shelter, I have no idea where I would have ended up. I had no money and nowhere to go. Through the shelter, I got to meet people who genuinely cared. One of the people volunteering was a lady called Kate who also works for Hope into Action, a housing charity. They decided to take chance on me even though I had no work and no money to pay the rent. They gave me a room and helped me to find work.
I have now cleared all of my debts. I am working full time at a factory in Bilston and still helping out at the Good Shepherd from time to time. Looking back I feel I was a bit stupid but at the time I felt trapped and like I had no choice or way out. I wonder how many others are in this position and need to hear that help is out there and that there is hope.
Jon, one of our Volunteer Supervisors
“I first started out volunteering for the shelter because I wanted to get to know the stories behind the faces of people who I would not naturally associate with. I joined the team and was trained up as a volunteer.
I was a bit apprehensive before I started my duties, but that was blown away by the team that was there on the first night. Very quickly the guests that were there became friends – it was awesome – they viewed me as someone they could trust. It totally changed my life. What for me makes the real difference to the Shelter guests, is being supported by people who genuinely care for them.
I have grown too and I have learned from people whose life experience and outlook are broader than mine. It has opened my eyes to see the reality of what some people go through on a daily basis.”