Catholic safe haven at risk of closing down
The Catholic Worker Farm outside London has been a safe haven for destitute women for many years. But now the farm is at risk of closing down. The Catholic Worker Farm is situated on a large working cattle farm in a rural setting with 2 acres of land and lake frontage. At present members who comprise the community are Scott Albrecht and seven volunteers. There is a steady stream of both visiting and live-in volunteers who come for up to a year and share in the community life of prayer, gardening, resistance and advocacy with our Guests.
The farm and Mary House, located closer to the town of Rickmansworth, provide accommodation, food, English lessons, counselling and other services for destitute female asylum seekers and their children, at no charge. All of the women are street homeless, and are referred to the CW Farm by refugee services/agencies. The CW Farm/Mary House meets the physical needs in relation to shelter, food and clothing, but just as importantly enables the guests to live in a supportive and loving environment.
Some women stay at the farm a few days, others several months – it all depends on their needs. When Katolskt magasin visits the farm there are eleven women at the farm, and nine women and children at Mary House. Scott Albrecht says that the farm gets requests fråm refugee services on a daily basis – that is how great the needs are – but lack of space forces him to say no more often than he likes to.
But now this sanctuary for destitute women is at risk of closing down. The owners, Guys and St Thomas Hospital Trust, have declared they wish to sell the farm, and the price tag is 5 million pounds. As of July 2017, when the current lease ends, the women and children may be thrown out and the farm may be converted into luxurious apartments for the wealthy and fortunate. There is the greatest uncertainty as to what may happen comes summer and Scott Albrecht says he is now looking at different possibilities of keeping the farm.
We are currently trying to get to sit down with Guys and St Thomas, to try to persuade them to divide the farm. That way we could keep the house, some of the land and one of the barns and bring more people here. The barn would be suitable for small apartments for whole families. At present we have no way of providing housing for men, which means that if a woman who comes here have a good relation with her husband or boyfriend, she actually has to live separated from him.
The reason is that most of the women at the farm have experienced violent relations and need to not be confronted with any men. But, as Scott says, there are also women here who have good relations with their men, and at present there is an Asian woman staying at the farm with her and her boyfriend’s newborn baby – and the boyfriend has no place to stay but is forced to sleep rough.
To leave the farm is not an option, Scott says:
– Where would we go? We can never get another house equal to this one, where we can welcome so many needy. Where we can grow our own vegetables, and have such good vacant space for meetings and talks. We hope and believe that the owners will realize that they can earn almost as much money off the other part or the land, even without our house and garden.
He now puts his trust in charitable donors and to the owners’ good will and concludes: In the end this is all about housing for the poor or private homes for the rich. The choice shouldn’t be that difficult.
Update: The latest news about CW Farm is that Scott Albrecht has been promised to stay beyond July. – We don’t yet know for how long, but it’s good, he says.