The Haven has its roots in a Christians together in Paignton (CtiP) Lenten interdenominational study group in the late 1980s led by Paula Mayer. Around 1990 members felt the call for a greater community/social action focus. A regular venue was needed and initially it was possible to use a house in Tower Road owned by the church. The group decided to share soup regularly and those in material need began to drop in and also share. The gathering became known as the “soup group”
In 1993 those premises had to be relinquished but within 48hours an opportunity came to take on premises above the Christian bookshop in Palace Avenue arose. The rent was largely funded by Paula’s language teaching activities. Once more lonely people began to drop in.
In 1998 those premises were sold at short notice but a member of the prayer group knew of some premises in Parkside Road and a lease of half of the top floor was negotiated. It was at this stage that the group –still meeting every Wednesday – decided to use the name Haven linking Paignton and its harbour with a place of peace and refuge from the storms of life.
Increasing numbers of people began to drop in – particularly mental health service users living in the community. There were by now some volunteers to answer the phone and to lend a listening ear. When the neighbouring language school went into administration we were enabled to take on the lease of extra rooms and expand our activities to include a counselling service and (with the Fernlea Trust) a pregnancy advice service. At this time we also hosted painting and craft workshops run by some of our supporters.
The Haven continued to evolve over the years. The focus has increasingly been to support “street” people, who for one reason or another are struggling to survive independently in today’s world. Many of our original somewhat skeleton volunteer team have retired and we have attracted a team of gifted and committed volunteers who have undertaken training in substance abuse, mental health issues, motivational interviewing and group-work skills. We continue to build close links with professional service providers in the Bay area.
As visitor numbers began to increase it became clear that we needed to formalise our status and as a result The Haven –Torbay was born as a registered charity in November 2011. The Charity is governed by a board of elected trustees. Paula Mayer continues her involvement as one of those trustees and as leader of the Wednesday prayer group. She also currently maintains a private office on our premises.
The achievement of charitable status has enabled us to apply for and receive grants (principally from the Anglican Diocese of Exeter) to refurbish our premises, which now incorporate the entire top floor of the building. We pray that we shall also thereby be enabled to attract further funds to both further improve our premises and also the services we can offer to our visitors and to cover the increasing costs of running the centre. All of our staff work on a voluntary basis so that all donations are used directly for the benefit of our visitors.