Leigh Elliott, our Deputy Chief Executive, recently spent two days at London homelessness charity The Connection at St Martins and here she tells us what she learnt from her experiences there.

Brief History of The Connection at St Martins

The work of The Connection at St Martins is informed by the practical Christianity exemplified in the life of its patron saint, Martin, who entered the Christian Church and became Bishop of Tours.  He is remembered for an instinctive act of generosity, sharing his cloak with a beggar.

Every year The Connection at St Martins cares for around 7,500 individuals who are homeless.

What I learnt

On my first day of visiting the charity I arrived early and stood outside the church to take in the surroundings.  It was a gloriously sunny day and I was surrounded by the beauty of St Martin’s church.  I watched people dashing to work in their well-dressed suits and could hear the drilling and hammering of workman which echoed that London had started its working day.  What quickly became apparent was the gathering of numerous rough sleepers outside The Connection.  They were not dashing with a sense of urgency but carrying with them their worldly belongings. Each face was filled with stress and worry and my beautiful surroundings quickly drained away from me into reality.  My emotions quickly changed and I instantly became upset, it was plain to see that these surroundings were normality for people who crossed this path daily. 

Having an insight into The Connection was very valuable and it quickly became apparent that they are similar to Children North East in relation to the common issues we engage with daily; social isolation, mental health, wellbeing, drugs and alcohol abuse, sexual abuse, domestic violence, family issues.  The Connection's values were aligned closely to ours and the staff approach was the same: non-judgmental, approachable, empathetic and kind hearted.

Now back home…

Children North East originated from Lunn and Watson offering trips to the seaside to poor children from the slums of Newcastle, and The Connection originated from St Martin offering to share his cloak with a beggar.  Thinking about the impact in society these charities continue to have on some of the most vulnerable people and their importance in communities; they both originated from small acts of kindness which have made and continue to make a big difference…