Homeless At Christmas

20 December 2011, 06:00

All week on Heart, we're focussing on homelessness in Cambridgeshire.

Latest figures from Cambridge City Council show that approximately 12 people are currently sleeping rough every night in Cambridge, and figures from Peterborough City Council indicate that approximately 17 people sleep rough in Peterborough every night.

Many more will spend time at emergency shelters or hostels, while others might not have been counted and may also be sleeping rough in parks, doorways and on the street.

Between today (Tuesday 20 December) and Friday, we'll be speaking to people with first hand experience of being homeless or working with homeless people.

They include people who are currently homeless, volunteering in homeless hostels, a relationship counsellor, an MP, a police officer and a council officer working to get empty homes back into use.

Case Study.

Today (Tuesday 20 December) in our breakfast news bulletins we heard from 38 year old Emma Hyde.

Emma used to be homeless after becoming an alcoholic, but has now turned her life around and is a project worker at Jimmy's Night Shelter in Cambridge.

Jimmy's is a charity that provides emergency accommodation for people who would otherwise be homeless.

You can hear Emma's story, including the factors that led to her becoming homeless and how she turned her life around, by listening to the interview below.

Emma Hyde talks to Heart's Tom Horn.

Emma has also told Heart about her most memorable Christmas to date, which was back when she was homeless.

Here is what she told us: "I’ve been lucky to experience some fantastically extravagant Christmases, the truly indulgent stereotypical image, starting with Champagne, smoked salmon and scrambled eggs for breakfast, and continuing in the same vain for the rest of the festive period. 

However, one of my most memorable Christmases I have had (so far) was when I was sleeping rough in Covent Garden Plaza. A group of us had made the steps of the church, our holiday home. 

We were ideally placed to watch the festive street entertainers, the mulled wine stand was conveniently opposite, to try and blag freebies each night, and the enormous Christmas tree provided our night lights. 

Ever the optimist, I thought if my sleeping area looked festive, Father Christmas himself would pay me a visit, so with this in mind I stomped off to a well known superstore and liberated two poinsettias, some tinsel and a bottle of sherry. 

Homelessness is dreadful at anytime of year, but particularly bad at Christmas. However that Christmas, with the camaraderie of my fellow ‘hotel guests, my poinsettias and some extravagant ‘drops’, it’s one Christmas I would never choose to forget."

More About Jimmy's Night Shelter, Cambridge.

During 2009/2010, 399 different guests spent time at Jimmy's Night Shelter.

During 2010/2011, that number rose to 404.

Now, the charity based at the Zion Baptist Church on East Road in Cambridge is undergoing a major refurbishment.

After this renovation, it will be open for 24 hours a day, seven days a week and will offer daytime learning and skills programmes for homeless people.

The new facility will open early in summer 2012.

Click here to visit the Jimmy's Night Shelter website.

The phone number for Jimmy's Night Shelter is 01223 576 085.

Click here to visit the Cambridge City Council website and get details on services for homeless people in Cambridge.

Click here to visit the Peterborough City Council website and get details on services for homeless people in Peterborough.