Living in the heart of the community brings all sorts of opportunities but also presents some big challenges. Creating a home that’s safe from burglars but accessible to local youth who want to talk is quite a balancing act, especially when visitors could fit in both of those categories at the same time!
Jen Graves shares how they tackled the ‘doorstep challenge’:
“We knew from the experience of earlier Eden teams that just opening the front door and welcoming the little cherubs inside for some fizzy pop, a jaffa cake and a bible study – even a trendy bible study with video clips and glossy workbooks – could be problematic,” Jen remembers. ”Young people in the inner city travel round in packs like laughing hyenas so if you don’t want the carpet covered in cola, the sofa full of cigarette burns and half your CD collection missing, clear boundaries will need establishing; and the most important boundary is the doorstep.
“To help teams work out these issues in their context Eden has developed an extensive Safeguarding package, but it’s not very helpful to get out the Child Protection policy and reference Section 9 point 3(d) when half a dozen bored adolescents are standing on your doorstep wanting something to do,” said Jen. ”So I came up with the idea of carpet!
“OK, so I didn’t invent carpet, but I realised how it could help me connect with the young people who were constantly knocking on her door. Rolled up in the hall I had a few feet of old carpet. If there was ever a knock when I was in the house alone, or if for whatever reason it was inappropriate to invite the visitors inside, I’d just whip out the carpet and host a tea-party on the doorstep.” Being ready for the knock meant Jen’s kitchen was always be stocked with the necessary supplies of tea, biscuits and banana-flavoured hot chocolate, “I’ve never seen young girls consume a packet of custard creams so quickly!” said Jen.
“And so the hours would drift by, sitting on the carpet by the doorstep, chatting about life and school and family, talking about God and favourite bible stories while Roxy the dog sniffed around in that confused dog way when there are too many smells to cope with.
“Of course there were times when it was just not convenient to have visitors but I will always try to be gracious. If I’ve just stepped in from work, or if I’m just getting ready to go out I’ll go to the door and explain. Over time she’s learned that one thing she can’t do is ignore the young people who turn up, otherwise the knocking will stop, the letterbox will squeak open and a shrill chorus of ‘Jen….we know you’re in…’ will begin to echo around the house.