Care, comfort and companionship in York

30 April 2024

Behind Central Methodist Church in St Saviourgate, York is a hall that brings hope and support to the vulnerable people in this historic city.

More than a fifty people can come to Carecent each morning, and to its sister charity, Place of Welcome, each afternoon. Together, these two organisations provide a place for people to gather that is dry, safe and supportive.


Carecent was established 40 years ago by the York Methodist Circuit who still manage the charity. It offers breakfast for those who are homeless and vulnerable along with showers, clothes and even food for their pets. Tony is a client at Carecent. For him, it is the fear of being inside that keeps him homeless. “I have been out on the street for two years now as I can’t stand being inside four walls. I hear voices and see things. It gets very noisy in my head. Some people look at me as if I am just a bum but when you are here, you are treated like a person. I enjoy it, everyone is friendly and supportive. It is somewhere to feel safe. There is a psychiatric nurse who comes and I am working with her to help me plan my future.”

Kiera Snaith is the project leader at Carecent, “The place sometimes feels like a dysfunctional but very caring family. We have the aunt who is drunk, the uncle who shouts, and we know the highs and lows of everyone. We have rules but they are not ridged. Many of our guests have complex needs and that can be challenging. The drink and drugs are how people cope with trauma and when you hear the stories, you can understand why they do it to help manage their emotions. The people we have here are some of the most judged in society.”

“We have services such as housing, drug and alcohol support, sexual and mental health services. Being outside “the system” means that people trust us. We don’t have a hidden agenda, we don’t have targets to meet, we do this because we care.

“Some think that this is a lifestyle choice. No one would choose this life if they didn’t have to or weren’t put in such difficult situations.”

By late morning Carecent closes and the Place of Welcome team takes over the hall for the afternoon,

Some of the clients are the same as those who come in the morning, others are those who were previously vulnerable and have now been able to break out of the homelessness cycle but value the companionship.

Mark lost his job during Covid. Within a few weeks both his grandfather, who was Mark’s best friend, and his housemate had died. As his life began to spiral out of control, Mark struggled to pay the bills and eventually lost his home and started living under a tree. “The Salvation Army came along and started chatting to me. With their help, I got myself a shared house and was able to get back on my feet. It was good to know that there were people in the city able to help.”

“When I was homeless I would come here and I still do as I want to keep in touch with my friends. They are someone to chat to and have a laugh with. It’s nice to come in here and chat with someone “normal” who gets it.”

Through hard work and determination, Mark was able to succeed in a new career as a bus driver. “I wanted a stress free job and I find bus driving stress free. Being a big lad, I don’t have to shout at anyone.”

Peter came to York on a holiday from Scotland when he was a child in care, he ended up in prison but it was his childhood that encouraged him to come to York. “I was told I was a danger to others and went from care to prison but that was more than 25 years ago. A lot of people would be stuck without this place. It can be cold and miserable to be homeless.

“I hope to get my own place soon and I’ve been ticking things off since I came here.”

Anne is a volunteer at the centre, “Our evangelism is very gentle, it is offering people a new way of life, it is a relationship and that means building trust and that takes time.