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John Paul Centre

53-55 Grange Rd

Middlesbrough TS1 5AU


The John Paul Centre

The John Paul Centre lies in the heart of Middlesbrough, on Grange Road. It is owned by the Catholic Diocese and run by a community of Redemptorist Priests living on site. The centre has a Pastoral side to it, with a gift shop and café, which is run by volunteers and the Redemptorist community. In addition, the building holds a Community Hub; the Diocese generously allows organisations working with some of the area's most vulnerable people; asylum seekers, refugees, the homeless and the destitute, as well as community organisations promoting tolerance and integration, to operate from the building on very low rent. The Community Hub is now so busy that a part-time Centre Coordinator is required, who will be an employee of Depaul UK, to facilitate the smooth running of the building and provide professional support to the variety of organisations operating within it. Tenants are required to accept a Licence to Occupy and to make contributions to the cost of utilities and to the rates.

These are the current organisations filling the available space within the Community Hub:


Context

A conference in 2012, "Bridging the Gap", brought local churches and Christian projects together to consider a more unified response to the rising problems being seen across Middlesbrough and the surrounding area due to the economic recession and cuts to welfare provision.  The scale and spread of deprivation in Middlesbrough is amongst the worst in the country; 47% of the town is ranked in the bottom 10% poorest places to live. In these communities up to 59% of children are living in poverty, up to 53% of families are headed by lone parents and in some areas male life expectancy is as low as 68 years.  The Conference highlighted the need for greater support for churches and projects in their work amongst the poorest, most vulnerable and marginalised people in Middlesbrough, stressing the need for greater awareness, information, collaboration and support.

Following the conference Together Middlesbrough & Cleveland was formed as a partnership between the Church Urban Fund (CUF) and the Anglican Diocese of York, but working with churches and projects of all denominations.  The development of the JPC to offer support to people in need in the town centre was seen as a key response to the call for churches to work together around tackling issues of poverty.

The John Paul Centre (JPC) has an excellent reputation as a non-threatening place for people from all walks of life to come and receive hospitality and support. It was established in 1983 to commemorate the visit to the UK of Pope John Paul II and to serve the needs of the Catholic community in central Middlesbrough. There is a small community of Redemptorists (Fr Michael Henesy and Brother Michael Duxbury) living in the Centre who attend to the Pastoral needs of the community.  

The logo of the JPC is " Where Strangers Become Friends " and indeed every Saturday afternoon the Upper Room Project is run by a team of volunteers to offer lunch and a listening ear to around 50 people who are struggling for a variety of reasons.

Because of its excellent reputation the Middlesbrough Homelessness Forum recognised that the JPC is a place where additional support and resources could make a significant difference to people facing homelessness and issues relating to poverty and social exclusion. Accordingly, UK homelessness charity Depaul UK was invited to introduce its own experience and expertise of working in this field by developing its Nightstop operations for Teesside to the building and more latterly the Positive Pathways project has come in to work with people to empower and enable them to emerge from poverty and vulnerability to homelessness by raising aspirations and broadening horizons.

Other projects within the ever expanding operational base of the JPC are Investors in People and Cultures (IPC), North East Refugee Service (NERS), Methodist Asylum Project (MAP), Straight Forward, Mary Thompson Fund and the Romanian Assembly which all serve to provide an excellent quality and diversity of support to hundreds of individuals and families from all kinds of backgrounds and countries.

With the JPC being located in the heart of Middlesbrough, it has become a focal point for the  Diocese of Middlesbrough and its development of its Catholic Social Action Network (CSAN) and is a perfect arena wherein to promote Catholic social teaching and the Common Good. Because so many people access the various projects within the JPC, the staff and volunteers working there have a ready-made point of contact with so many vulnerable people. Both a Food Bank and a Clothes Bank have been set up within the basement area of the building which is utilised by all of the projects thereby promoting integration and community cohesion.

The Centre Coordinator will report to Management at Depaul UK, but will also meet with and work closely with the John Paul Centre Committee to ensure all aspects of activity within the centre remain within the context expected by that group.