Jimmy’s Night Shelter is located in the Zion Baptist Church in East Road, Cambridge. The church originally opened the shelter in 1995 to provide welcoming, safe and warm accommodation for homeless people. In 2012 the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge opened the renovated centre, which now provides 24/7 care.
Walking up to the Zion Baptist Church, we approached the big red doors. We pressed the buzzer, thinking about how many people ring that bell as a lifeline every single day. As soon as the door opened we were hit with homely warmth and the smell of tea and coffee. After meeting Barry (an employee) we went into the beautifully-decorated and colourful communal living area, helped ourselves to some tea, and took a seat at the table.
Barry explained the service in more depth, and the journey someone takes when they step through the door. He then took us on a tour of the centre. First was the kitchen, with hundreds and hundreds of broccoli florets stored ready to be used for soup. We were amazed to hear how many dinners had come out of that kitchen over the past 20 years. Next we went down the stairs to the old, original Jimmy’s: a small room which was home to hundreds of people until the centre was refurbished and expanded in 2012. Barry showed us the form completed by someone coming into Jimmy’s for the first time. The form also included a section at the back to track each person’s progress, including services such as counselling and learning skills to help them look for jobs. We then visited the old, dark dormitories which accommodated up to 8 people each night. This is now where they store all of their donated supplies, including the biggest pile of bags of pasta we had ever seen, many bars of soap and lots more.
Day-to-day life at Jimmy’s is organised through a timetable, which includes activities such as art and cooking. These help to keep people busy and off the streets during the day. Men rather than women are accommodated by Jimmy’s because there are other services which cater for women in the area.
After the tour we discussed with Barry what we could do to help. Ideas came flooding out, from bake sales to shoe boxes to camp-outs in the College grounds. Knowing more about the service, and the positive impact it can make in people’s lives, we are eager to continue working with Jimmy’s in any way we can. As well as events at Long Road, this could include a stall at the Mill Road Christmas Fair and regular visits to Jimmy’s.
Jimmy’s is a safe place for many in Cambridge. Hopefully we can work together to enable it to help a few more.