In November 86 I came to live and work in Rochdale, working for the Baptist Housing Association as a warden in charge of sheltered accommodation. Whilst working in that capacity I became aware of the drug problem in Rochdale. First of all, through the pain and despair of one of my residents whose son was addicted, and then I began to realise that certain people in the street were dealing in drugs. Later, through the minister of our church, I was introduced to one or two of the lads on the street who were in bad circumstances because of their addiction. I came to understand at close quarters the terrible predicament that some of them were in, and I realized that I was being led into a different work.
During this time I spent much time in prayer and sought the Lord’s will through prayer and felt that I was being guided a step at a time through His word, through preaching and that “still small voice” within me. I felt at the time that I was being shown two pathways and the choice was mine to make. One was a very steep pathway in front of me that would be very difficult but would lead to an outpouring of God’s blessing in a mighty way. My instruction for this path was clear – that I must not look to the right or to the left but to rely on Him for guidance. The other pathway was a comfortable one, one that many Christians took; it wasn’t evil just comfortable. I realized that in many ways the second pathway was the one that I was on. I did a Christian work with lots of enthusiasm and could have stayed there and had many material gains and no one would have known the choice before me, but I knew that God was calling me to the steeper pathway.
Whilst all of this was happening one of the lads took me to look at some property with six bedrooms and suggested it would make a great hostel. I went to look at it and it was a real mess, but I immediately had a good feel about it. This was from the Lord. I didn’t have the money to bring it up to regulation standards, but the owner was prepared to spend the £30,000 needed and rent it to us. Amazing – I can only believe that the Lord had His hand on it. In it we seek to show the practical reality of the Christian faith. Though the work is hard and we go home tired out, we see lives being touched in a real way by Our Lord Jesus.
It took approximately two years for the hostel to open but in the meantime, we opened a “Drop-In” Centre underneath the hostel. Here we sought to reach out in love to the many people in the area who were beset with problems. In the Drop-In Centre we distributed cheap or free food, advised people towards professional services, and gave a listening ear and general support in any way we could.
We realised that we need to support people towards independent living and this too is part of the on-going plan, and in Dec 1992 we opened a 4 bed roomed property in Clara St.
The hostel is almost permanently full to capacity. In 1995 we obtained grants enabling us to purchase the Hostel and in 1996/7 this was completed. In 1999, we established a working partnership with The South East Lancashire Housing Association Ltd (SELHAL) who totally refurbished the Hostel. This link also helped us to become more firmly established with the Council as a Managing Agent and we are now working our way through the changes in Housing Benefit as it is supplemented by Supporting People
God’s word tells us “That the cattle upon a thousand hills are His” so therefore if this work is His we should have no need to beg. The practicalities of it are that God’s work should be supported by God’s people.
Praise the Lord.
Sheila Halsall June 1992 Rev Nov 92 & Nov 2000
I was speaking to Sheila regularly before her coming into Glory yesterday. She was totally thankful to God for all the work this, her wonderful legacy, is achieving this present day as we looked through the Annual Impact Report together. One of the things she doesn’t mention in the above visionary account of our beginnings is the sacrifice her family made in her committing to this work. She mentions the steep path and was always mindful of the love she had for Jim and all her children. However all of Sanctuary Trust benefited from the love of such an outstanding matriarchal leader. Her prayers were always to bring about change for people who were struggling. “So long as were helping people to live their best lives” was her main concern.