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Home » News » Welcome to Hope House Winter 2023.

Welcome to Hope House Winter 2023.

    First, a brief intro from me, Jamie Mackay

    I retired from my work as an independent arable farm advisor in September 2022. I’d known Tony Britten for some years as both he and I meet regularly at a Christian Fellowship breakfast which is loosely based across the villages (parishes) of Stebbing and Felsted. Tony would occasionally talk about the Hope House Charity during these breakfasts, and as a recent retiree with a bit ‘freer’ time on my hands, we met together at Hope House back in the spring.

    I was invited to attend an evening at the ‘Wednesday Meal’ as a potential volunteer. Almost immediately there was a warm welcome, from guests, volunteers and others who find themselves on the margins, meaning homeless folk from the Braintree area. On 15th June 2023 I was appointed a Trustee to the charity.

    Over the last 8 months or so I’ve got to know all four guests in the main house and a few from the house next door where they have mostly got jobs and others who’ve spent time living in either house and now regularly attend the Wednesday meal.   And…I remain hugely impressed by the conscientious dedication of Heidi Freeman (Manager) and Lesley Smith (House Administrator and book keeper) both of whom run the business end of the charity.

    “The Elim Braintree Church is the Venue for these Wednesday Meals”

    Wednesday evenings have been my main point of contact with guests and others from Hope House Essex, hence the focus of this ‘festive’ letter is indeed this event. Cooking the meal revolves around either a single individual, or in many cases it’s a partnership, as is the case with Paul and Josh Hooks. I caught up with them both, and asked a few questions, how and when they got involved with HHE………

    Jamie – Good afternoon Paul and Josh, it is great that you could both make time to speak with me today.  It is great that you are both able to support what we do on Wednesday Evenings at Hope House, and it would be lovely for people to find a little bit more about you.
    Paul – Thanks Jamie.  I guess for those of you who do not know, Josh and I are father and son.  Me being the dad, and Josh being my little boy, although with Josh being 18 years old last month – Happy 18th Birthday Josh! – not such a ‘little’ boy these days.
    Jamie – So Josh, lets ignore your Dad for a minute.  Why do you help out on a Wednesday evening?

    Josh – Initially, I began helping because I was working towards my Silver DofE, when I was with the Royal Air Force Air Cadets.  However, cadets were taking up quite a bit of time, and I am in my final year of A-Levels so decided that I would stop cadets, but thought it was a good idea to still help on a Wednesday evening. 
    Paul – I am really pleased that Josh has continued helping, as it means that I get to spend time with Josh on activities which we can do together outside of the home.
    Jamie – Paul, why did you start helping?

    Paul – About 5 years ago, I used to cook once a week at the house, when the charity only owned number 43.  However, due to the business of life, I stopped.  Then about a year or so ago Tony contacted me and asked if I would help cooking once a month, and that coincided with Josh needing to do his DofE stuff, so it seemed a perfect time and perfect fit.  Also, I love cooking, as I find it quite a mindful process, and Josh enjoys his cooking too, and proud Dad Moment … Josh has won some local cooking competitions, so it seemed like a win / win really.
    Jamie – Josh, how do you and your dad decide what to cook. 
    Josh – We think about what we have cooked over the last few months, we then look at what others have cooked and then try and choose something which hasn’t been cooked for a while to keep the menu novel.
    Paul – Yeah that’s right, and we also think about the kitchen, and the facilities, we need to ensure that what we are cooking can be cooked in the kitchen at the Elim.
    Jamie – Josh, what is your favourite meal then. 
    Josh – Probably steak, but in all honesty, as long as there is meat on the plate I am happy.
    Jamie – Paul, what about you?
    Paul – Given the chance, I would have curry everynight of the week, and also for breakfast, and lunch too.  That is probably the only thing, I do not enjoy about cooking, I love spicey food, and everything we cook needs to suit a wide palate, so the most we cook in terms of being adventurous is the chilli which we have done a few times.  It does seem to go down fairly well.
    Jamie – can you both tell me what would be your food nightmare?
    Josh – mushrooms, they are evil
    Paul – I haven’t come across anything that I wouldn’t eat, but I suppose that whelks would have to be the worst.  They are just rubbery and lack flavour.  Yes whelks.
    Jamie – so in finishing, what would you say is the best and worst parts of Wednesday evenings?
    Paul – I love cooking and seeing people enjoy the food that I cook.  I guess that would be my favourite part, especially when after cooking, I get to sit down and share the meal with other people, who I don’t know that well, getting to know them.  I am not sure that there is a worst bit … actually, the bit I don’t like is too many people in the kitchen when we are cooking, I am always worried someone is going to get burnt, or food is going to get knocked over.
    Josh – I guess the bit I like most is the cooking bit, but I must admit I don’t enjoy chopping onions, that is probably my worst bit.
    Jamie – Thank you both for your time, and I look forward to seeing you again when you next cook.

    “To give a different slant, I asked Stu for some thoughts about Wednesday evening”

    Stu who’s in his mid – late thirties, got involved with the charity through staying over with Tony Britten, so knowing, or having contact with Tony, seems a regular route to involvement with ‘Hope House Essex’
    “Tony invited me to come along to the Elim Church on a Wednesday evening to check out what it was about. I liked the people I met, the inclusive atmosphere and even on that first evening, 12 to 15 months back, there was a connection with some of the guests. As I attended the meals more regularly I built up a rapport with a good number of people”

    I was there in October this year when thirty-five, or more guests were in the building. It was good that the charity was coping with more and more folk coming. On occasions like that there was a genuine ‘buzz’ about the place
    I can help with the washing up if needed – funny to think that I struggle with chores like that at home….but at the Wednesday event….it just happens! Many hands….

    You and Us

    Hope House Essex has Volunteering Opportunities for those who “have a heart for others” to join the Hope House team contact us on 01378 348000 or

    All sorts of help is needed from washing up (when Stu’s not there), cooking, befriending, fundraising, writing grant applications, maintenance, gardening and even working as a trustee.

    We get no Gov funding and rely on fundraising events, personal donations, Trust fund grants, support from local churches and other organisations and for some getting housing benefit.

    Make a donation today to help us help the Local Homeless.

    To donate visit our website at!/DonationDetails