A new pilot project to provide support and friendship to people living on the street in Peterborough begins this month in Garden House, tucked away within the Cathedral Precincts.
The scheme is being run by the Light Project Peterborough, the charity that has been running a Winter Night Shelter in the city for the last three years, in collaboration with local churches.
The charity has been working with homeless people in the city, and along with the night shelters, was looking to set up a day centre to offer help and support.
They have now linked up with Peterborough Cathedral to use the Garden House.
Steven Pettican, who oversees the Light Project’s work with the homeless, said: “We’re taking the Garden House scheme slowly and finding our feet. It’s all about sustainable community living, so we will offer services like healthcare, job search, or benefits advice. The quality of what we do is more important than the quantity. We’d rather work with a few people and help them to really make a difference to their lives, than go for large numbers. People need a sense of family and love and this is easier with small numbers.
“The location is ideal because it’s central and no-one can say it’s difficult to get here. It’s also great to have the garden to tidy up because there is always plenty to do. It’s peaceful too, a safe place with no drink or drugs where people can come for a couple of hours.”
People who use the centre will be invited individually by City Council and Light Project Outreach Workers, rather than Garden House being a drop in centre. The charity has a good track record. Of the 42 guests who used the Winter Night Shelter last year, 22 are now in accommodation, thanks to partnership working with the City Council. The Light Project’s approach is very much a multi-agency one, although they remain an independent charity funded by small grants and donations from churches and individuals.
Light Project Trustee and Cathedral Canon, Ian Black said: “The medieval abbey which occupied this site would originally have offered alms and support to the poorest people in society. Many people in need naturally gravitate towards the cathedral and it is important for us to be involved in this work. One of our core values is hospitality and we are pleased to be able to show this in this practical way. This is Christianity with its sleeves rolled up.”
The Garden House venture will run for a trial six month period. Asked how people can support it, Steven Pettican says, “pray for us. Or you could make a cash donation or run a fundraiser.”
The project does not need donations of food or clothes. If you would be interested in volunteering, email firstname.lastname@example.org
or visit www.lightprojectpeterborough.org.uk