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How Newcastle Cathedral became a spontaneous homeless shelter

Sat 03 Mar 2018
By Cara Bentley

A woman in Newcastle gathered volunteers within a day for St Nicholas' Cathedral to stay open overnight for people who are currently homeless. 

Donna Robinson explained to Premier how she was looking out her window and couldn't do nothing: "Yesterday, just sitting in the house, watching the weather outside and thinking about people, you know, not having a home to go to, how cold it must have been and thought 'you know what would be nice would be if church and community centres opened up and let them in over night'." 

She put a post on facebook, found the Cathedral's facebook page and asked if the homeless could come in. They agreed and said they closed at 6:30pm but that if she could find people to help at  short notice they would happily have them overnight as well. 

"I said 'I'm sure I can get a team together' - less than 24 hours later we've got piles of quilts, blank, countless food, tea, coffee, clothes, people coming from all over the place."

People from across the community have given up time and money to help: "There's a pizza shop bringing pizzas down, there's a barber coming down if anybody wants their haircut later on. Everybody's just rallied round, it's unreal - I can't believe it."

Amazed at the response of a simple facebook post, Donna said: "It's escalated pretty much beyond control really! We've just got people coming left, right and centre wanting to help."

Donna works at EE in Newcastle, who she says had been amazing in letting her take a 'volunteer day' to do the job. 

Bedding, clothes, soup and food from cafes were all brought. 

70,000 people were in touch with the Cathedral in one night according to Geoff Miller, the Acting Dean at Newcastle Cathedral. 

He said: "There's a few ladies making a bolognese sauce in the kitchen, there's people serving teas and coffees - it's just amazing really."

"We'll do our best to stay open for as long as it takes to clear the weather, though I'm not saying this is going to be a permanent activity - this is a response to something. And of course there are other charities and people who are working day-in day-out and we know that they're the experts."

Listen to Donna Robinson explain how it came about, Geoff Miller from Newcastle Cathedral and Angie Cane, a family support worker speaking to Premier's Ian Britton:

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