When, why and how did Footsteps start? In January 1990, the charity started operating from the Youth and Community Centre in Leapale Lane, after a period of planning. The person to whom credit should be given for the idea of a drop-in centre is Terri Jezeph.
In the late 1980s and the early 1990s unemployment rose dramatically after the worldwide stock market crash of 1987. There was in fact already a growing longer term homelessness problem which was largely ignored, and many people were sleeping rough in towns and cities across the country.
This problem was very evident in Guildford. Newspapers, both local and national illustrated the point in photos and articles very vividly.
What could be done to relieve the problem in Guildford itself? Led by Terri who wanted to respond to this crisis and take a pro-active position on tackling homelessness.
The first drop-in centre opened in Leapale Lane. It was to open on Sunday evenings, initially in two shifts: the first from 5.45pm to 8pm and the second from 8pm to 10pm. The charity was called Footsteps, the name being the inspiration of an early volunteer, Linda Record. Terry White was invaluable in getting the most distressed people into the centre, who could then shower and receive a clean set of clothes.
Footsteps had expanded to include volunteers from other town centre churches and the wider community. We continued to provide food, clothing, newspapers, showers, friendship and, if possible, advice.
Today, the volunteers have to keep up with ever increasing regulations to cover matters such as food hygiene, first aid, drug awareness and anger management, in addition to health issues.
We have just recently celebrated 30 years of helping the homeless in our community.