For those that haven’t seen the previous blog posts about Peterborough Light Project, it was an event organised in Peterborough from the beginning of December right through until the start of March, today. The event held up to 14 homeless people in Peterborough each night, giving them a place to sleep, an evening meal, a place to wash and breakfast.
The nights were spent at 7 different churches, one different church for each night of the week and the homeless people, guests to the organisation, slept on camp beds that were made up by the volunteers with fresh bed linen that was cleaned frequently by the prison. The volunteers (over 240 of them) covered the evening, night and morning shifts over the 3 months of the project.
During the project local groups visited with donations, the council came and help them find homes; they were linked up with the job centre, opticians, doctors, support workers, help with their addictions and such like. Everyone worked together to help the homeless and on average each homeless person stayed with the project for around 3 weeks before they were given proper housing and found work, where possible.
I was one of the volunteers and in December I did huge amount of shifts and then in January and February I was doing every Tuesday and Wednesday evening. I started to form a real bond with the homeless people, I became a friendly face they could trust and stories I heard have definitely stayed with me.
What I found most interesting was the people I met were not the people I had seen, they were not the people in the sleeping bags in the streets or those busking or begging, instead these homeless people hid away through the days as they were ashamed. I was shocked to find out from the council that 97% of the ‘homeless’ people I see on the street are not actually homeless.
The people I met, for the most part, were kind and caring people, a lot had found themselves homeless from broken relationships with partners or parents, and there was also a clear issue with mental illness for some of the people I met. How hard must it be to struggle with a mental issue and not even to have a safe roof over your head?
The saddest shift for me was my last shift, it was Wednesday 24th February, the project ended on Tuesday 1st March. I saw 2 brand new guests come in and I knew that we didn’t have enough time to help them, yet I also knew the next 5 nights they would be warm and safe.
Then on Tuesday 1st March, I was at #CreativeNetworking, the rain was pouring outside and the poor homeless people that had not yet found homes were sent out after breakfast, for the last time, not knowing when they would next have food, drink or a place to stay.
I cannot explain how that made me feel, as much as I knew if I hadn’t been there they wouldn’t have been safe at all for the last three months, I also felt helpless, that they were out in the streets again, and alone.
At #CreativeNetworking we do collections for the homeless, collecting food and toiletries at the events so I can deliver them to New Haven, a hostel, and also the Food Bank. It’s only a very small thing, but if we can all do a little thing what a better place our local community can be!
It’s hoped Peterborough Light Project will run again, through the 3 coldest months of the year – I shall definitely be there and I hope to see you there too… even if you can only do one shift?