Carrie is chaplain to those on streets of Norwich
Norwich’s self-appointed chaplain to the streets, Carrie Sant, is an expert social networker – with the homeless, refugees, asylum seekers and addicts. Helen Baldry reports.
She doesn’t have a website, she doesn't produce leaflets and doesn’t tweet, but Christian outreach worker Carrie Sant is a social networker par excellence. Carrie works in Norwich with homeless people, asylum seekers, refugees, addicts and any vulnerable people who need help.
She is a qualified nurse, ordained minister and trained counsellor with a natural skill for helping people. She describes herself as a self-appointed chaplain to the streets. Carrie takes action where she sees a need and says that she asks God what she should be doing each day and just tries to follow His leading.
Carrie said: “I was aware of the enormous need in people’s lives, and as a Christian, I am aware of the enormous resource that is the church. My heart is to try and connect the church to the need in a safe and effective way.”
Having experienced poverty and even homelessness herself and having experienced the devastating effects of addiction and poor mental health within her own family, Carrie is able to empathise with the people she meets.
Much of Carrie’s work ‘just happens’ due to the extensive connections she has with individuals, agencies and organisations in the city.
She said: “I believe God’s put me in this very strategic place where I have a pretty good idea of what’s happening and what is needed.”
For example, an elderly refugee was moved to a house which was entirely unfurnished and she had no belongings whatsoever. Carrie received a call that day from somebody who’s relative had died and wanted to give everything – kitchen contents, furniture, appliances – to somebody in need.
Inspired by Genesis 11, the motto of Carrie’s group, City Saints in Action, is ‘blessed to be a blessing’ and they have an ability to spot opportunities to assist in very practical ways.
Every year, Carrie turns up on the last day of the Norfolk-based Christian festival Newday with a team of helpers and vans, this year they collected about £4,500 worth of unused food from groups at the campsite. The perishable food is distributed amongst hostels and families in need and non-perishable items are saved to use for their weekly open table lunches and to give to give to people in need, including newly-arrived asylum seekers and refugees.
At Christmas with added provisions from Norfolk farmers and Norwich Foodbank they deliver up to 250 hampers to people in need
Carrie likens her role to that of a midwife – assisting in the birth of new projects – seven have sprung out of small beginnings, including an informal language group which, under the vision and leadership of Rosie Sexton, has since blossomed into English+, to support people who have moved to Norwich to speak English.
House to Home was started by a refugee who, after volunteering with City Saints and receiving support from them, wanted to help others in their settlement process.
Turn Around Stays is based on a farm near Garboldisham where groups volunteer and gain practical skills, such as pottery. From this, eight men at present, enjoy much-needed space, living for a while, away from chaotic circumstances.
Carrie said: “Our ethos is to build new social networks by working together to help other people.”
The impact Carrie and her team have on the city is evident; after City Saints take action, amazing things follow in their wake.
Pictured above, Carrie Sant helps teach pottery at the Turn Around Stays farm near Garboldisham.