Next month Fr Darren Percival, Curate at St Mary’s in Barnsley, will be braving the heights of Newcastle to raise money for the Barnsley Deanery Homeless Fund.
Fr Darren will be zip-wiring across the River Tyne on the 19th September, hoping to raise at least £2,000 for the Fund which helps those living on the streets in Barnsley.
Fr Darren says, “I'm terrified!
“I’ve walked across the river over the Tyne Bridge, I've been under the river in the Tyne Tunnel, and I have been across it on a train and car.
“But, I have never used this mode of transport. And maybe I will never do it again!”
The terrifying zip-wire will be over 160m long across the river in his hometown, but it is all for a worthy cause.
Fr Darren says, “There are a lot of homeless people on the streets of Barnsley, far more than I ever realized.
“By doing the zip-wire I hope to raise the profile of the homeless people in the town as it’s an everyday occurrence. We have two tents and three people sleeping in St Mary’s Church porch at the moment.”
The image above shows the belongings of the homeless people left in St Mary's Church porch.
Revd Stephen Race, the Area Dean of Barnsley, says, “During his curacy Fr Darren has developed an affinity with those on the edges of society and has been profoundly moved by the gentleness and humanity of the rough-sleepers in our Churchyard: every individual has a back story to be heard and every individual needs to experience the love of God.
“The Deanery Homeless Fund helps a little bit towards that so I am delighted that Fr Darren has taken on this challenge on behalf of Barnsley’s marginalised.”
Fr Darren claims, “There was a particular incident that spurred me on, and that was a gentleman who told me that entertaining the likes of these folk is devaluing the town. I was astounded as I had just had three of them in church for a coffee.
“He said people would not come to church because of these people sleeping in the porch. I said, ‘It was Saint Lawrence who was told to bring out the treasures of the church - these people are God's treasures like you and I’. He said, ‘I beg to differ’.”
“I was astounded!”
The money that Fr Darren raises will go towards the Barnsley Deanery Homeless Project, an initiative set up by the Area Dean of Barnsley, Revd Stephen Race.
The project was further encouraged by the former Bishop of Wakefield, Bishop Stephen Platten, who gave each parish £100 in 2013 in celebration of the 10th anniversary of his consecration, asking the deanery to grow on their project by combining the money given to each parish.
Fr Darren explains, “This money has been used to provide bedding, hot drinks and breakfast for the homeless people in the town. It has been used also to provide food when people have barely anything at home, or even to put gas and electric on to keep them warm.
“This happened to George in March. He was fortunate to get a bedsit but could not afford the heating. I took him to the shop and loaded an amount on his electric key. A week later he came back to pay us back.”
Fr Darren mentions, “We top the fund up with coffee mornings and fundraising. My greatest vision would be to see more shelters like St George’s Crypt in Leeds.”
However, Fr Darren notices that it can often be hard to overcome the stereotypes that people uphold about homeless people.
He explains, “Homelessness pervades all aspects of culture and every walk of life. Many people think that homelessness can be easily solved by giving people money or food. Others believe that homeless people can obtain jobs easily. If there are part-time jobs available, why not apply and start working?
“Multiple problems lie with that issue. Where can these people receive their benefits? What do they put down as their address? How will they have clean clothes for the day? Do they have transportation to get to work? These are some of the questions that people face when they are homeless.
“To avoid this, the church and the local people need to come together to eradicate this as these are normal people, who have fallen on hard times,” Fr Darren argues. “Maybe they can’t afford the rent, and the next thing is that they are on the streets.”
Fr Darren claims, “I needed to do something to raise the profile of the homeless, and the zip-wire is only the start.”
The image above shows the Tyne River over which Fr Darren Percival will travel using the zip-wire.
To donate to Fr Darren’s zip-wire challenge and support the Barnsley Deanery Homeless Project, please visit his Just Giving page here: https://crowdfunding.justgiving.com/darren-percival