Barry takes us back to the beginning


by Barry Griffiths

Twenty-five years ago, like minded Cambridge individuals, inspired by one man, got together and set out a vision to propose and set up Cambridge's first all year round nightshelter. This was in response to the growing number of rough sleepers on our city streets. Out of this rose Jimmy's Nightshelter, named after the inspirational Jimmy Dilley, formed by hard-working, community spirited partners and individuals to reflect the need to offer hope, protection and support some of the most vulnerable people in society, hosted and housed through the generosity of the Zion Baptist Church.

The early days were, I understand, somewhat chaotic. Forming a new service takes time and things go awry but the strength of the staff, volunteers, coupled with the desire to do the difficult things, make tough decisions, resolute in their resolve to get it right.

In the early 2000's the decision was taken to expand the service to include follow-on accommodation. In negotiation with local estate agents, one then two houses were acquired and the Jimmy's vision grew to try to expand to changing needs, develop a more holistic service for those we support.

Time moved on and when I arrived as a guest in November 2010, Jimmy's was in evolution again, very much on target to migrate into an Assessment Centre phase of our existence – not just overnight, but open 24/7. Again driven by needs of the moment and capacity needed in the future. 2012 brought that change with the opening of the Assessment Centre by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. New single person accommodation and a new day service to engage and better serve our guests.

And here we are 25 years on, still looking to support and ultimately house people through our various services – the emergency housing service on East Road, support to people with alcohol dependency at 451 Newmarket Road, 9 shared move-on houses, and a new project in the city to provide modular homes coming soon. Plus in the colder months, Severe Weather Support for another 26 people, all focussed on supporting those who need it most.

So what has allowed us to do what we have done, to provide that unity of purpose ? Quite honestly it's you. People effect change, support change, deliver change. From our staff, our volunteers, our guests/residents, our community, Jimmy's has drawn its strength and desire to keep going.

Times have changed in 25 years, but people haven't. We all remain strong together to deliver the thoughts and ideas of a handful of people based on 1995 who shared a vision. You have been the strength we have built the past 25 years on, the strength to keep us going as long as is needed, especially in the current pandemic.

Thank you for being you, we have much to be proud of in our delivery but much still to do, so let's do it together. Keep safe, stay well and we need you all, more than ever.