Manchester’s Unsung Heroes: Barnabus founder Peter Green striving to bring hope to the homeless

By Paddy von Behr

More than 2,000 people in Greater Manchester are homeless and that number is on the rise.

Peter Green took to the streets in 1991 with a bag of sandwiches and a thermos flask – 22 years later he still offers unrivalled support to the city’s homeless population.

Peter founded and runs Barnabus, a Christian charity bringing hope to the homeless and vulnerable of Manchester.

But, despite over two decades of tireless work to help others, he is not interested in taking credit for his efforts.

“All the glory and the honour goes to God, not to me,” Peter said.

“It’s what God does through me. I’m just an instrument, a tool, and that’s how I consider myself.

“We’re prayerful and we’re not frightened or ashamed to say that we are Christian people, but we don’t try to bash anyone on the head with it.

“We try to show love to people – that’s all I have ever tried to do.”

Peter and his wife Beryl, who runs a charity shop in association with Barnabus, have both spent time on streets.

Their experience in times of hardship allow the couple to understand the plight of Manchester’s homeless and help set them on a road to recovery.

“I have spent time out there, I know what it’s like and I felt prompted to go,” he said.

“We have just seen amazing things happen – people call it coincidence, I call it ‘God-incidence.’

“My faith is so important to me – I’m not a religious person and would hate to be considered a religious person, but I try to live a lifestyle that I know in my heart is right.”

Carol Price, Barnabus’ development manager, joined the charity in 2009 and is still consistently surprised by Peter’s devotion to the project.

“I am quite in awe really of somebody who has dedicated their life to this,” she said.

“Other things in his life have perhaps fallen to one side because this is something that he cares so deeply and passionately about.

“It’s definitely not a nine-to-five job – I don’t know how he does it.”

Their Beacon Centre on Bloom Street, which opened in 2000, has seen a huge increase in demand since the recession began.

It is open five days a week for evenings and breakfast and houses up to 120 people, offering food, showers, toiletries and donated clothing.

And Barbabus offers a number of other schemes, such as cooking classes, IT sessions, an allotment project and street soccer.

But despite the sheer volume of people coming through the doors, certain stories stick in the mind of the charity’s founder.

Peter said: “There was one guy – a big lad, seven foot or something – who was a violent man and he used to carry a machete.

“He was such a big lad you would call him ‘sir’, you wouldn’t mess about with this guy.

“I spent hours and hours with him, chatting with him – he used to come to me, I never went to find him.

“The last time I heard of him, seven or eight years ago, he was married to a little Chinese lassie, got four kids and now a chartered accountant, from living on the streets.”

Barnabus continues to grow in size and influence – a recent change of office is a sign of out-growing humble beginnings.

And Peter is already looking way ahead into the charity’s future, when his hectic and dedicated tenure comes to an end.

“It’s a life-filler,” he said. “I don’t have any set hours – I get up in the morning and I just do what I have to do and that’s it.

“It is something that has been loaned to me and given to me to nurture and build up.

“When it’s time for me to call it a day I will be able to hand it over and walk away because it’s not my property – it’s God’s property.”

Image courtesy of BBC News via YouTube, with thanks.

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