Our friends across the hall: partnering with Acts 435.

New York City apartment block featured in sitcom friends

[1]

“So no-one told you life was gonna be this way…”[2] (Go on. Admit it. You just did four claps.) The music to the sit-com ‘Friends’ is probably one of the most iconic television theme tunes in the world and the lyrics focus on the power of (you’ve guessed it) friendship, emphasising that true friends stick together through good times and bad.

If you’ve never seen an episode of ‘Friends,’ the premise of the show is as follows: three males and three females live and socialise in apartments opposite one another in New York City. Their enduring friendship and cohesiveness as a group guides them through the myriad experiences of their twenties and thirties, as they support one another through career opportunities, romantic discoveries and (for some) the journey into parenthood. Any fan watching during the nineties and early noughties wanted to be part of their ‘tribe’ and so many expressions from the show have made it into everyday parlance, there is a good chance you’ve heard (or even used!) one without realising it.

Apologies for the fan-girling. I’m reliving my twenties as I write. But there is a (somewhat tenuous) point to my youthful reminiscences of the ‘Friends’ who lived across the hall. We at Restore also have friends across the hall, who support our work and with whom we are proud to partner. The team at Acts 435 are based out of the office opposite ours and their work aligns well with the support we provide for our residents.

In their own words, “Acts 435 is an online giving charity, directly connecting those who want to give with those who are in genuine need of their help, through a network of local churches and charities.”[3] The underlying ethos is based on a passage from a book in the New Testament of the Bible called ‘The Acts of the Apostles’ chapter 4 and verse 35, where the believers in the early church don’t consider their possessions as personal, but shared gifts from God; as such they would bring what they had to the Apostles, to be distributed among anyone who had need. The Acts 435 model seeks to replicate this pattern for the modern age via an online giving portal, where donations can be allocated for specific needs. By way of example (based on a situation recently listed on the Acts 435 ‘current needs’ page): a mother fleeing domestic violence is rehoused with her children, but their property has no floor coverings and the mother cannot afford to pay for carpets. Acts 435 can put an appeal on their website whereby supporters can donate towards the cost of carpeting for this family, enabling them to keep their home warmer and thereby reduce their heating bills. Supporters can either give a proportion of the overall request, or offer to cover the entire amount. Once the full amount has been raised, Acts 435 arrange for the need to be fulfilled. Individuals may contribute finances towards a specific need, or they can make an unspecified donation and Acts 435 will allocate that money to help cover the most urgent requests. To date, over 50,000 individuals have been helped via Acts 435.

When a Restore resident moves into their own property, they often need to acquire a large amount of furniture and equipment to make their new space a useable home. Many receive a YFAS grant[4] to cover basic essentials such as a bed and a sofa, but often this does not cover all the items they need. Our housing support team will work with residents to put a request into Acts 435 for contributions towards items which aren’t covered by the YFAS grant, such as a hoover, kitchen equipment or carpeting. Several of our former residents have now benefitted from assistance via Acts 435 and this support goes a long way towards helping them get settled in their new home. Knowing there were people out there who cared enough about their situation to donate money towards helping to improve it, demonstrates to our residents that they are indeed loved and valued by God.

You’re probably still humming the theme tune from Friends, aren’t you? (It’s an earworm, I know. Sorry, not sorry.) Have you reached the chorus yet? “I’ll be there for you…like I’ve been there before…like you’re there for me too.” If Restore was looking for an anthem, I think I could make a strong case for this song being it. For many (if not all) of our residents, life has taken a very different turn to the one they hoped for or expected: as the lyrics to the song go, “your job’s a joke, you’re broke, your love life’s D.O.A.” Whether an individual coming to Restore has experienced problems with employment; financial worries or a relationship breakdown, some sort of adverse situation has brought them to our door. Being there for people when life is hard, with neither judgment nor prejudice, is what Restore is all about and we will be there for them time and time again, until they are back on their feet. We also get to see residents supporting each other, being there for one another and building lifelong friendships as they move forward out of homelessness. Watching our residents build their own support network of friends is truly wonderful to see, and we strongly advocate peer support as part of every resident’s journey.

So in conclusion how do you, dear reader, fit into this picture? Could you take a look at the current requests on Acts 435 and make a one-off gift to support either one of our residents, or one of the many others like them around the country? Could you be there for someone, meeting their need financially and demonstrating the love of God to them by bringing hope into what was once a hopeless situation? Can you become a friend to Restore, by setting up a new monthly donation, or take on one of our fundraising challenges to help raise funds and also promote the work of Restore to a wider audience? Whatever you can do, no matter how small, rest assured, it will make a huge difference to someone else.

 

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[1]  Photo (Friends Apartment TV Show) Manhattan, New York City, by Chalo Gallardo on Unsplash

[2] Written by Michael Jay Skloff, David L Crane, Marta Fran Kauffman, Allee Willis, Philip Ronald Solem, Danny C Wilde Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group (1995)

[3] https://www.acts435.org.uk/how-we-work/how-we-work/

[4] York financial assistance scheme https://www.york.gov.uk/benefits/york-financial-assistance-scheme-yfas/1