Jimmy’s opened its doors in November 1995, so providing Cambridge’s first year-round night shelter just in time for Christmas!
Jimmy’s is named in memory of Jim Dilley, who spent much of his life sleeping rough in the region, or spending winter nights in one of Cambridge’s temporary shelters. In the last few years of his life, he slept under the bridge over the M11 motorway at junction 13; our logo is inspired by that bridge.
In the winter of 1993, Jim was told he had lung cancer. He died in Papworth hospital in June 1994, and subsequently his ashes were scattered at his old ‘home’, junction 13 of the M11. His story so moved a small group of people that they were determined to establish a permanent night shelter in Cambridge.
Crucial to setting up Jimmy’s were funding and donations. We were lucky to receive funding from Crisis and the Opportunities for Volunteering scheme, plus countless donations from many other organisations and individuals. These included kitchen equipment from BT in Ipswich, furniture from the Eaden Lilley department store and a food mountain from the OLEM church.
Even at this stage, Jimmy’s was able to call on an army of volunteers who worked tirelessly to get us up and running. These volunteers came from all over: the wider church community, Cambridge’s two Universities, individuals who had heard or read about Jimmy’s, retired people, busy working people, our neighbours in Petersfield… the list really is endless!
An especially important group of volunteers were homeless themselves. They helped with decorating, collecting donations, cleaning, cooking and odd-jobbing. Already we knew our guests would help make Jimmy’s a unique and very special place.
Back then, our services, although essential, were rather basic: bed, breakfast and an evening meal. Today, having provided shelter for around 6,000 people since opening, life at Jimmy’s and the services we provide have moved on enormously.
In 2008 we were awarded £3 million capital funding for a major refurbishment from Communities & Local Government. An additional £500,000 was given by Cambridge City Council to help provide us with a temporary facility to ‘live in’ while the building works were in progress.
The funding meant that Jimmy’s was able to move, in June 2012, from a single basement in the Zion Baptist Church, to operation over four floors of the building. We moved from dormitory bed rooms to single en-suite rooms; from a dark space to a light and airy environment; from a basic night-time service to a 24-hour operation; and from an old building to modern refurbished premises.
We now offer an accommodation resettlement service, workshops and learning opportunities, laundry facilities, sports and leisure activities, computers and IT information points, guest advocacy and support, move-on houses and a comprehensive range of visiting support organisations, all designed to give our guests the best possible chance of moving on and breaking the cycle of homelessness.
Services like Jimmy’s will always be needed. We aim to ensure that whatever the future holds, we will continue to offer love, support and a place of safety and security for all our guests – in memory of Jim Dilley and the many others like him.