The Windsor community’s combined effort to help its vulnerable

2009, tragedy struck when Patrick O’Leary, a local man, succumbed to hypothermia and neglect on a bench in Windsor town centre. Determined that such a heart-breaking event should never be repeated, a group of volunteers (spearheaded by Churches Together in Windsor) created an initiative to identify other rough sleepers and to care for them. That initiative became known as the Windsor Homeless Project (WHP)WHP harnessed the collective energy and dedication of various church congregations and received overwhelming support from the local community. WHP provides a safe haven four days a week at a local day centre providing practical help and guidance.

In 2013, Windsor Christian Action (WCA) was formed as a registered charity primarily to enable the Homeless Project to benefit from the advantages that charity status provides.

Separately, back in 2012, Windsor Street Angels (WSA) had formed, driven by a growing awareness of the need to offer assistance and aid to people during the night-time. Since their first shift in 2012, WSA have positively impacted the lives of over 75,000 individuals. In 2013 the Windsor Street Angels became part of the Windsor Christian Action charity. Today, every Friday and Saturday night Street Angels patrol from 9:30 pm to 4:00 am and have established a Safety Hub in collaboration with Thames Valley Police, ensuring the safety and well-being of the night time community.

Also separately, in 2013, Windsor Foodshare (WFS) emerged, dedicated to supporting Windsor residents struggling with food poverty. It became part of the Windsor Christian Action charity in 2016. In 2023 WFS saw a worrying 30% increase in demand above the previous year and today provides non-perishable food, fresh fruit and vegetables and household products to over 10,000 Windsor residents.

In 2019 a further initiative began under the umbrella of the WCA charity: More Than a Shelter providing overnight accommodation and meals to rough sleepers in the coldest months through a rotation of hosting churches in Windsor Town Centre. Although this form of assistance had to be temporarily suspended due to the pandemic, it is being revitalised within the Homeless Project in the form of a warm hub, where guests can gather for food, warmth, and companionship.

Today the registered charity WCA is the sum of these three projects WHP, WFS and WSA. Being joined together provides additional opportunities and strength in our dedicated effort to offer vital aid and ongoing support to the vulnerable population of Windsor. While we have already taken important strides towards achieving that cohesiveness, we have plans to do so much more.

Our new chapter

For a long time, we felt that we would be able to have greater visibility and impact in the community if WCA had its own premises. In 2023 we were able to secure a building in Alma Road which has become our new home and brings many of our services under one roof. WHP will operate exclusively from this building. Although Windsor Foodshare and Street Angels will continue to operate principally from Dedworth Green Baptist Church and Windsor Baptist Church respectively, the new premises will provide them with additional storage facilities, a distribution point, and training venue etc, as well as providing a wider visibility in central Windsor.

We named the building the “Alma Beacon”. ‘Alma’ hints at the location (Alma Road) but also has a few different meanings in different cultures such as: kindnourishingfeeds the soullifts the spirit; and ‘Beacon’ which is a symbol of hope, inspiration and encouragement, a destination, a guiding light for assistance and support. All of which we aim to provide with our services across all three projects.

However, Alma Beacon is more than just a physical building. The name Alma Beacon symbolises our commitment to making a positive difference in the lives of those in need. Through our various initiatives, we strive to bring hope, comfort, and assistance to individuals facing challenging circumstances. In that way Alma Beacon will be adopted as the additional working name for the charity. Windsor Christian Action will remain its official name. The addition of Alma Beacon as a working name provides an excellent opportunity to drive increased interest, understanding and support for the Charity.

We are extremely proud of our registered charity, and of its origins. We are thankful to the Windsor churches for founding the charity, and for continuing to support and undergird its work. We are excited about the way the charity has successfully encompassed the different projects; about this new chapter of our story; and about the way we are continuing to shine a beacon of light in our community.

Pioneering people at Alma Beacon

We are forever grateful to the people who made it happen from the start and helped us achieve the position we are in now. Top row L-R Tom and Susan Hinds, Rev Matthew Scott, Stephanie Minici, Ainsley Swift. Bottom row L-R Sarah Howard, MarkRichardson, PCSO David Bullock, Jane Deakin.