On Thursday 17th August, Conor Burns, MP for Bournemouth West, spent an afternoon at our Westover Road hostel to meet staff and residents as part of his continuing campaign to explore the benefits of cooperation between organisations dealing with homelessness.
Mr Burns was shown around our hostel and facilities by our Chaplain, Jez Du Puy, and our Head of Housing and Support, Kathie Pearce. They explained how the organisation is funded and its primary aim of helping residents progress from supported housing to independent living through, amongst other means, the teaching of essential life-skills, the provision of one-to-one support and assistance in securing long-term accommodation.
Mr Du Puy also showed Mr Burns around the Half Time centre, a collaboration between local Christian charities which provides washing facilities, advice and support to rough sleepers.
During his visit, Mr Burns spoke to a number of residents about their personal stories and revealed the story behind his own passion for the issue:
“I went to a private school run by Christian brothers and we were very much encouraged to consider that the privilege we had was one side of the coin; the other side was responsibility,” explained Mr Burns. “When I was in my sixth form, I coordinated a project to improve conditions for patients in our local mental health facility. Sadly, when I returned years later, the hospital had closed and some of those patients were the people now living in the street.
“Behind every person on the street there is a tragedy and I feel the obligation that we should do all we can. I’m not convinced that we’re getting it right here in Bournemouth or embracing the range of charity organisations, professional organisations and churches that wish to help. It’s in the town’s economic as well as moral interest to help people get off the street.”
Mr Du Puy said: “We really appreciate the interest Mr Burns showed in our work. Our initial aim is to make a personal connection with our residents: to find out what’s going on in their life and discover how best we can help them as individuals. So, we were particularly pleased that Mr Burns took the time to speak to residents”.
For his part, Mr Burns said he saw the role of YMCA Bournemouth as a vital component of the collective response that is necessary to tackle homelessness:
“The journey that led people onto the streets requires another journey to lead them off the streets. YMCA Bournemouth is a sort of service station for homelessness: the place where people can stop, refuel and get the levels right before heading to the destination, which is independence and the dignity of work.”