Community hub leader's 'love of people' helps inspire community
- Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown
A Suffolk woman who has faced poverty and homelessness says that her love for people has helped her serve the most vulnerable in her community.
Teresa Bishop is the manager of the Christopher Centre, a community hub in Sudbury that helps vulnerable people.
"You can't turn your back on people," said Mrs Bishop.
"It's the love of people that motivates me."
Mrs Bishop also understands the situations many of those she helps are in.
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"I've been homeless so I know what it's like, I've been poor so I know what it's like," said Mrs Bishop.
"You want to make sure people can have the best life they can. The whole team goes the extra mile for people."
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The team at the centre in Gainsborough Street provide all sorts of support to those in need.
"We have a Monday morning drop in where people who need a safe and comfortable environment come to," said Mrs Bishop.
"They are usually those with learning difficulties, mental health issues or just isolation."
Usually the meetings would be open to all to drop into as they wish, but because of lockdown restrictions the group is restricted to a select number of people whose mental health issues mean they wouldn't be able to cope with lockdown with no contact.
The centre also provides food for those who need it.
Usually they provide sit down hot meals but restrictions mean they are limited to handing out takeaways to most people.
As well as working at the Christopher Centre, Mrs Bishop also works at the Sudbury Community Depot.
"It really started because one year we had quite a lot of rough sleepers in Sudbury," said Mrs Bishop.
"They had a much greater need."
The depot started up by providing things for those who were sleeping rough, like sleeping bags, tents, warm clothes and food.
As time went on the project continued to develop to support people.
"When people were moving out of homelessness and into accommodation we would provide them with furniture and household goods," said Mrs Bishop.
"So that they would have everything they would need."
The depot also helps people who are having issues with their benefits and who have fled domestic violence.
"We've seen a huge increase in that during lockdown," said Mrs Bishop.
Mrs Bishop is ably assisted in helping others by a growing team of people over the years.
"We help anybody that is in need basically," said Mrs Bishop.
Mrs Bishop has been helping people in need for as long as she can remember.
"It's something I've always been involved in," she said.
"Either through church or with various organisations."
When Mrs Bishop retired, she moved to Sudbury and discovered there was a need for her help in the town.
"People who are vulnerable or isolated or have mental health issues need a voice because they don't have one for themselves," said Mrs Bishop.
"They need somebody that will speak up for them or direct them into the right place to go."
Mrs Bishop said that areas like Sudbury had seen the services required to help these people moved away and centralised into bigger towns like Bury St Edmunds and Ipswich in recent years.
"People have got nowhere," said Mrs Bishop.
"So we are really a point of reference as well. We can do the spade work and fill in the forms to get them the services they need."
As well as changing the way the Christopher Centre works, lockdown and the pandemic more generally has seen an increase in demand for help from the depot.
"You get working poverty," said Mrs Bishop.
"You get husbands that are on zero hour contracts, they have got no safeguard. There are just so many issues with lockdown and the knock on effect is always on the poorest in the community."
Nowhere was this more obvious to Mrs Bishop than on Christmas Day.
Mrs Bishop has been running a Christmas Day lunch for the past 16 years.
"What we have found more recently is that we have had more families attending the Christmas lunch," said Mrs Bishop.
"It started off for singles, isolating people and teenagers living on the streets."
Mrs Bishop said as well as her team, real support had been shown to her work by the people of Sudbury.
"We have the backing of a fabulous community," said Mrs Bishop.
Mrs Bishop said that the need for her groups' support will only increase in the near future.
"I can only see that the need is going to be greater when we come out of lockdown," she said.
Mrs Bishop hopes that it won't be too long before all her work is back to face to face contact so she can spend time with the people she helps.
"I'm looking forward to when we can all be together again," she said.