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St Paul's Church Hosts first Summit on Homelessness: It Takes a City

Introductory session in the main hall (Click to enlarge)

Introductory session in the main hall

Posted on Friday 30 November 2018
After months of preparations and planning meetings from a dedicated team of volunteers and homeless sector organisations, Cambridge's first summit for homelessness was hosted at St Paul's Church in Cambridge.

Rev Jon Canessa (Bishop’s Officer for Homelessness) pioneered the day with Dr Rowan Williams also opening the summit.

Dr Williams said: “At the moment when you look at homeless people in every other shop entrance in Cambridge, when you look at the situation of young people with the spiralling use of Foodbanks year on year in Cambridge it’s clear there is growth for some in the city but certainly not for all. I went out one night with Street Pastors in Cambridge, groups that offer practical help, support and counselling to those pouring out of the clubs, but what I remember is alongside the crowds coming out of the clubs at two in the morning were the people in the shop doorways and the contrast couldn’t have been sharper there. I want to underline that difference some look and some don’t look, and that’s a choice, at the end of the day, are we going to look?”

It was the beginning of a number of serious and sustained conversations between all sections of the community towards reducing and eliminating rough sleeping and homelessness in the city with almost 200 attendees. It is hoped that conversations lead to actions, and actions lead to permanent change. We want to bring all the city together, with an enduring and shared commitment and sense of responsibility.

The event included street sleepers in the conversation as well as people with lived experience. Before the attendees broke out into smaller groups a video was shown that had been made by three current street sleepers. “Voices from the Street” gave just a small glance into the reality of life on the streets. This was followed by some personal and touching reflections.

The hall was a buzz as attendees voted with their feet and set off into groups where they could use their skills and experiences or just followed their interests. It is not intended to reinvent the wheel, but the need to be bold and innovative in thinking and focus on what we can do as a city.

The six thoughts for discussion were: Information and awareness, support, housing, employment, community and working together. Delegates really got involved and by the end of the summit most had filled in pledge cards for the areas they would be willing to get involved in.

Jon Canessa said: “I have worked with homeless people for several years and believe one person sleeping on our streets is too many in 2018. The problems associated with homelessness cannot be fixed at Westminster or be left at the doorstep of the local authority. Real change is possible if we come together and work as a city across business, public and community spheres, we hope this is the start of the city coming together”

The team were delighted with how the day went and will update you with how things progress moving forward.

The day also drew much press attention:

ITV Anglia

BBC Radio Cambridgeshire