From church - to place of sanctuary
The site of a former Baptist church in Liverpool has been transformed by Everton Football Club into a new home to support some of the city’s vulnerable young people
After serving the area’s spiritual needs for more than 100 years, the Stuart Road plot is now offering sanctuary to young people on the brink of homelessness.
The new home is part of Everton’s Home is Where the Heart is campaign, and is situated on a site with a strong Christian heritage which began when a large, Victorian Methodist church was built there in 1903. The building was subsequently given to Carisbrooke Road Baptist Church and Kirkdale Baptist Tabernacle after the war, when both buildings were bombed.
It would become Stuart Road Baptist Church until around 10 years ago when the congregations of Stuart Road and Bethel Baptist Church merged to become Hope Baptist Church. The congregation moved into the newer Bethel building, and the Stuart Road site was sold.
The Stuart Road Baptist Church meant a lot to many, including North Western Baptist Association regional minister Phil Jump – it was the church where his parents were married; where he was dedicated, Baptised, married, ordained and inducted as an NWBA Regional Minister. It was also the venue for the launch service of the new Association.
Writing in 2013 when the bulldozers moved in, Phil said, ‘It’s a place that matters to me, but soon, few will even know that a church building used to stand here.
‘The congregation has moved on, taking the brave step of joining themselves with another church that had become unsustainable, and selflessly released their own building in favour of a smaller and newer premises that would otherwise be sold.
'I am deeply attached to this location, and in my heart of hearts I wish it could remain a church building to which I could return and be nourished by my memories - but the time has come to move on.’
Everton’s Home is Where the Heart is campaign saw the under-23s raise £230,000 to support young people on the brink of homelessness.
The funds enabled the club to buy the home in Stuart Road and operate it as a supported living initiative for 16-23 year olds who have fallen on hard times or fallen out of the care system. The campaign was fronted by under-23s manager David Unsworth, who briefly managed the first team last season following the sacking of Ronald Koeman.
A short film introducing the home by Radio City News has been viewed more than 75,000 times. In the clip David explains how the scheme will provide the inhabitants not just a home, but 'wrap around' support, such as help with apprenticeships, finance and general life skills.
‘When you play for Everton, you have a responsibility to affect your local community,' David says.
‘We highlighted a problem in our city and decided to do something about it.
‘Whoever has the honour and privilege of living here, they are living in a top quality home. I think it will make a huge difference. This is a home - it’s not just a roof over their head.’