By Stacey Marriott
Imagine hitting rock bottom and feeling drowned by despair. All hope is gone and everything seems black and bleak and lonely.
Imagine finding a place that is full of light and hope, where a warm welcome is extended by people who care. Safety and peace provide a cushion and paths are laid to other places that can provide support and help towards a better future.
This is the vision of the Night Light Cafe.
A few years ago I was hearing time and again of local people who had found themselves at crisis point with their mental health and had not known where to turn. With clinical services overstretched, there was clearly a gap in provision for crisis care, particularly out of hours. I had a notion that the church could fill this gap, and began to prayerfully consult google to see what solutions other cities had found. I came across the concept of crisis cafes; safe spaces, open out of hours, to provide support for people who were experiencing a crisis in their mental health. In the past, when chatting with friends about times when we had found ourselves in that dark place of a mental health crisis, we had reflected that our situation would have been improved by the availability of such a place, being met with complete acceptance by people who are committed to providing time and attention to those in dire need of some support. So when I came across the idea of crisis cafes, I knew that this was something the churches in Lincoln could help to provide. With the assets of owning many buildings in the city and an army of people whose foundational belief is based on loving others, I wholeheartedly believed that we could achieve this dream. But how?
In January 2018, the Greater Lincoln Active Faith Network launched six subgroups to address the needs of Lincoln. One of these was Health and Wellbeing, and at the first meeting I shared the crisis cafe concept. It quickly became evident that several others in the room had been thinking along similar lines and we began to dream and scheme. As we explored this idea over the following months, we entered into conversations with leaders within local NHS mental health provision who agreed that crisis cafes would benefit Lincoln and this led to an offer of funding for the venture. Acts Trust were keen to adopt the project. The dream was coming true!
At the start of 2020, the churches of Lincoln were asked to express an interest in partnering in this scheme and we were soon in a position to train up volunteers and launch our first cafes. When the first two cafes had to close just a few weeks after opening due to the first Covid lockdown, a remote service was developed so that people in need of support could receive phone calls or connect with ‘Zoom Cafes’ with our team of volunteers. This continued until July when we were able to reopen, and by November we had seven cafes, one open every night of the week, with the remote support continuing to be offered alongside the face to face support. In December we were offered further funding to extend the project and some cafes began opening earlier. We also were able to open three new cafes in different areas of Lincoln and have grown our volunteer base to a team of more than eighty people.
Throughout our first year of operation we may not have welcomed as many people into the cafes as we were expecting due to the covid climate, but we have provided many people with valuable support, both in person and over the phone, and night after night our volunteers make themselves available to provide safe spaces and listening ears for those who need it. Our hope is that over the coming year many more people will connect with this service and find it helps them through difficult times.
Please support by volunteering or donating!