Cardinal Hume Centre on BBC documentary

Annabel Croft, Rosie Boycott, Hardeep Singh Kohli, The Marquis of Blandford and Bruce Jones

Annabel Croft, Rosie Boycott, Hardeep Singh Kohli, The Marquis of Blandford and Bruce Jones

The Cardinal Hume Centre features in  a BBC documentary, ‘Famous, Rich and Homeless’  tonight, Wednesday 24 June and Thursday. 25 June, 9pm, BBC1. The film highlights the harsh realities of homelessness. In 2009 recession and repossession mean homelessness is a frightening possibility for anyone. But for five famous volunteers, it's about to become a terrifying reality.

Annabel Croft, Rosie Boycott, Hardeep Singh Kohli, The Marquis of Blandford and Bruce Jones are stripped of all their money and personal possessions and experience life on the streets first hand. They sleep in doorways, queue at soup kitchens and beg for spare change. Tired, emotional, dirty and hungry, they now see life from the perspective of a homeless buddy.

After a gruelling few days living rough with their homeless buddies, they are finally sent to live in different hostels, Annabel Croft coming to stay at the Cardinal Hume Centre in Westminster. The physical and emotional experience of ten days on the streets has challenged their prejudices and preconceptions of homelessness and the different reasons and circumstances that leave someone without the home life or locked doors that we take for granted. Annabel Croft observes that in some ways "homelessness" is a misleading term: "familylessness" is the real problem.

“This is something that we felt was important to be part of, a chance to show that the harsh realities of homelessness still exist today,” Cathy Corcoran, Chief Executive of the Cardinal Hume Centre explained.

“The issues that this programme brings to light are ones that the staff here at the centre are confronted with on a daily basis. When young people come to us they are at rock bottom, scared, frightened and often reacting to the abuse they have suffered on the streets. It is the skill and dedication of our staff who start to work to regain their trust and make each person feel safe again.”

In a recession it is ever more important that facilities like the Cardinal Hume Centre stay open. The Centre relies on the generosity of many individuals and organisations and is grateful for any support people can offer.

The Centre’s enduring purpose is to work with young people, badly housed families, refugees and asylum seekers to break out of the cycle of homelessness and financial exclusion through obtaining employment.

When Cardinal Hume established the Centre in 1986, he was responding to the needs he saw every day on the streets of Westminster – homeless young people living rough and families housed in bed and breakfast accommodation. Over twenty years later this founding vision continues to shape the core purpose of the Centre. However, the world has changed and so have the needs of the Centre’s clients.

Today there are fewer rough sleepers on London’s streets and families are rarely put into bed and breakfast accommodation, but there has been a steady increase in the number of hidden homeless, especially young people. Many migrants and refugees are facing stark economic hardship. The critical shortage of affordable housing means that many families arrive at the Centre facing a future in overcrowded, temporary flats, unable to put down any roots in the local community.

Even if it is possible to help someone get a home, there are often a whole range of reasons why they may not be able to keep that home. Given that the major route out of homelessness and poverty for most people is employment, the Centre concentrates on helping people to get ready for work. For some people that means getting into full-time education; for others it is about developing the skills to get into their first job or a better job, or about addressing the issues which are preventing them from getting into work. For the parents who come to the Centre it is about getting ready to search for work when their children go to school.

Cardinal Hume Centre  services are all based on one site in Westminster:

•The Gateway offers a warm welcome to everyone coming to the Centre for the first time whether they need emergency accommodation, health care, financial planning and debt management, adult education and literacy, immigration and benefits advice, spiritual support and a listening ear.

• The Assessment and Client Engagement Team works with each client to assess both their immediate and longer-term needs and to help them begin a journey of personal development, accessing the many services on site. If we cannot help, we will signpost people to another organisation who can.

• The Housing Team gives advice and advocacy across the Centre and the main hostel provides accommodation and support to 32 homeless young people helping them to get into education, training and/or work.  A smaller Hostel provides a safe haven for people in recovery from substance misuse with specialist staff available. When residents are due to leave the Hostels, help with moving on to independent living is provided.

• The Learning, Development and Employment Team provides a wide range of services from English classes to Adult Literacy, from IT training to CV writing, from job search to interview preparation and work placements, from child development to how to be a good parent.

• The Medical Surgery provides a two-doctor general practice specially tailored to the needs of homeless people of all ages and from across the whole of London. In addition to general counsellors, mental health and drug and alcohol services are available on site.

• The Family Services offers state–of–the–art play and development activities for children under five who are living in inadequate or overcrowded accommodation and associated activities for their parents. A crèche also enables parents to access the education and training services on site.

• The Charity Shop is a well known landmark in the area, popular with office workers in need of a good book, with anyone looking for a bargain and with many people who are in need of clothes, household equipment, toys and teddy bears, pictures and bric-a-brac.

For further information see:

Share this story