In 2001 ‘Churches Together in Newbold’, Chesterfield were challenged by the issue of social justice. A meeting was held and led to the establishment of a soup kitchen which was held twice a week and supported people who were homeless.
By June 2002, a wider group of Chesterfield Churches wanted to explore what more they could do to support homeless people. A public meeting was held with representatives from different Christian denominations, as well as Housing, Social Services, Primary Care Trust and other interested bodies. There was wide agreement on the need for a drop-in day centre that could support people who were homeless.
The concept of Pathways was born and a steering committee was formed. It was initially funded by a substantial legacy from a member of Holy Family Church on Derby Road and a paid manager was appointed. Pathways was constituted as an official charity on 20th November 2003.
An ongoing theme throughout the history of Pathways has been the need for the right premises, and this proved to be a problem from the start. For the next three years, the Pathways’ committee – and especially Peter Shelton – sought to acquire suitable premises and faced many disappointments along the way.
In July 2005 we finally acquired the upstairs office space of 55 Vicar Lane, although it was in very poor condition. After a lot of hard work to get the building ready, Pathways of Chesterfield finally opened its doors in February 2006 to support homeless people. Despite the poor access, we welcomed up to 70 clients per day. An official opening followed in May 2006, attended by Terry Waite who had ongoing links with the Emmaus charity.
Pathways ran very much like a traditional day centre at this point, providing meals and activities, supported by an army of volunteers ready to offer a friendly face, a listening ear and a signpost for people to get other essential support. We soon outgrew the building and wanted to expand. The award of National Lottery funding allowed us to extend our horizons.
On the 1st of April 2008 Pathways moved to a larger building – an ex-public house on Stand Road. We continued to run as a traditional day centre but with numerous additional activities; showers and laundry facilities, a training kitchen, debt counselling, a health suite and dentist, a pool table and even a piano! Access was limited to those who were strictly homeless. However we soon recognised that additional support was needed for those considered to be vulnerably housed or only just in their own accommodation; they were allowed a further six weeks in which to attend the Centre.
The staff team expanded to include a housing worker to enable these client to move from homelessness. We then established a working relationship with the Primary Care Trust who funded the mental health nurses who became an essential and permanent feature of our services.
In 2013 Pathways did not secure some expected funding and the building then became unaffordable, leaving us with no alternative but to downsize.
We secured the lease of 120 Saltergate, which was smaller and a significant change from Stand Road. However it gave us the opportunity to rethink the service and review how we could improve our support, to help people move forwards rather than just offering a day-centre/place of safety. We identified the “rotating door” pattern but needed more space in which to deliver all our services.
In 2020, after a large expansion of the team, we signed a lease on a second building, 106 Saltergate. Unfortunately this coincided with the onset of the Covid pandemic and we were prevented from making full use of the premises. Since then we have established a lovely group space inside and we have additional accommodation for the team and to offer more appointments. We can now offer other services including a dentist, the Law Centre and drop-ins.
Pathways has continued to evolve over time [even during the pandemic], learning through experience, shared ideas, lived experience and a desire to meet changing needs. It has seen many different configurations. Initially set up as a day centre, it then moved to an appointment-based advice and support service, before progressing to our current model of advice and support but with easy access through a drop-in. This evolution has ensured that we now capture clients who are rough sleeping as well as those who are homeless for other reasons, because previous models tended to fit one group or the other rather than catering for both.
We continue to review our business model regularly to ensure that we meet society’s current needs.