When in May 2015 Peterborough churches first got together to open a winter night shelter, the city council was anxious about the role a faith-based group would play in a demanding sector.
Since then, Light Project Peterborough has become a partner in the city strategy for homelessness, opened a year-round day centre called the Garden House, and developed partnerships across all sectors.
‘Our model is faith in action’, says Light Project Peterborough chief executive officer Steven Pettican: ‘We are a Christian Charity. We don’t hide it and we don’t minimise it. At the same time, we are not going on about it all the time. We will pray for people if they need it, but nothing is pushed onto anyone.’
Having a strong record on delivering positive outcomes makes a huge difference to the way they present themselves to partners. ‘Our projects have evidence of impact, so we don’t feel the need to be apologetic about being a Christian charity. Our partners know that we will help them hit their targets,’ Steven says.
There’s a recognition that without the contribution of the church, the social fabric of the community would fall apart. Last winter season – working from 12 Churches and with volunteers from 38 church congregations
the night shelter provided volunteer benefit to the city worth £68,626, and 1,016 beds over the course of 18 weeks.
When charities in Peterborough got together for a coordinated approach ‘Safer Off the Streets’, Light Project Peterborough ensured it was integral to the conversations and proposed the Garden House to be the project hub. Now, alongside the day centre GP, counselling, mental health, help with the EU settlement scheme and recruitment partners are all delivering on site.
Christlike values underpin the team’s work. That means, for example, a commitment to truthfulness with partners and supporters, and for guests an effort to create a culture and atmosphere of gentleness and calm.
Research shows that there is great benefit for people experiencing homelessness to deal with spiritual matters. Most organisations steer away from conversations about spirituality, fearing it may be intrusive or beyond the bounds of service provision. But a lot of people who are homeless have a need to talk about faith, and we can create the space for them to ask and explore those questions.