Twenty-five years ago people in need would knock on the little red door of St Mary’s Monastery on St Alphonsus Road in Clapham asking for help, so the Redemptorists set up an open access outreach project to support the vulnerable and homeless.
Today the outreach project has its own fully equipped centre, Ace of Clubs, where it offers a range of services including laundry, accommodation advice, food, links with rehab services and bike repairs.
Now they have celebrated their Silver Jubilee with a plaque which was unveiled by Archbishop of Southwark John Wilson. Martin Reyes, the Manager of centre operations and casework described the event as “a very celebratory night where you got a true sense of the support from local communities and partners”.
In his speech Rev Br Mike Taylor CSsR, Director and Company Secretary and a member of the Redemptorist congregation, said that over 25 years they have helped serve “more than 500,000 meals and helped more than 10,000 clients get off the streets and back onto their feet,” and says that was all achieved “without statutory funding and with a minimal but inspiring team of local staff and volunteers.”
At the ceremony, which was also a celebration of the centre’s post-lockdown relaunch, he said his aim was to “provide life-changing, transformational, assistance...particularly through education and training”.
The history of the shelter is one that embodies the spirit of the Redemptorists – a religious community established with the aim to help those in need. The Redemptorist movement was founded by St Alphonsus and began near Amalfi in Italy, and eventually came to diocese Southwark.
The small centre maintains an “club” ethos, with a community feel and supported by around twenty regular volunteers. They are “open access and don’t turn anybody away as long as they are over eighteen”, said operations and casework manager Martin Reyes.
Amid the pandemic, Ace of Clubs had to reconfigure itself to offer hot takeaway meals to over 50,245 people. If anything, the shelter has seen more people come through its doors during the Covid-19 crisis. “Since March of last year it’s been a massive increase,” said Reyes.
Asked what their plans for the next 25 years Reyes said: “To improve our existing services. The goal for the next 25 years would be to continue to hone the things we are good at, but also provide transformative change with things like, education, training and employability.”