Cardinal Hume Centre marks the start of its thirtieth year

Cathy Corcoran

Thirty years may seem a mere blip in the great scheme of things but thinking about the number of people who have come through our doors at the Cardinal Hume Centre over those years, it’s time beyond measure.  Because the Centre has changed so much, adapting to emerging need, we can’t give you the cumulative statistics.

What we can do, however, is tell you just how many people we supported last year. For example, 1,458 people came to the Centre and received one-to-one advice and support. 101 people secured the right to remain in the UK. 203 people gained new skills in English, IT and money management. It’s just a snapshot of the joys and struggles, hopes and heartbreak, the courage and the achievements which are part of the Centre’s daily life.

Recently I was asked a serious question by a potential funder: he said, other than resources, what one ‘thing’ would I wish for that would make a tangible difference to our work.  My answer was I would love to see a greater acceptance that there are reasons behind why the people who come to us face so many problems and barriers.

Poverty and its companion, homelessness, are not natural phenomena. They are subject to cause and effect. Famine has causes; war has causes; migration has causes. So too does homelessness.  Unless we accept that, any response can only ever be partial. This is not to negate what we do in any way at all. It is simply to say that I wish we didn’t have to do it – and have to do more of it – every day.

So tonight is about launching our 30th Anniversary year, when we will be finding new ways of celebrating what we do and what happens in the lives of the people we support. I have a wonderful memory of going to see Cardinal Hume with the then boss of CAFOD, Julian Filochowski, seeking his support for CAFOD’s Silver Jubilee.  The Cardinal asked, ‘So when’s the date? And Julian said, ‘Well, in fact it’s all year!’  The Cardinal burst out laughing, saying ‘Everyone else is content with a day, but not you!’ So, although there won’t be any big events, watch this space as our year unfolds.

Last night I was walking to Embankment Station from the Savoy theatre and I was genuinely shocked by what I saw – a cardboard city of people bedding down for the night. What would our founder say?

What I hope he would say is that he is both sad and glad that we are still around thirty years later. As he said at the opening of our hostel for young people:  “You who are here have helped to make all this possible. Your very presence shows your concern for these homeless people. We must all be diligent in our continued pursuit of the resolution of these problems.  But in the meantime, we can rejoice in what is being achieved here in the Centre, the community needs more places like this – let us celebrate what it does.”

Thank you once again.

This speech was given by Cathy Corcoran, CEO of the Cardinal Hume Centre, at the end of the annual Thanksgiving Mass marking the anniversary of Cardinal Hume’s death on 17 June 1999. The Cardinal Hume Centre was founded by the former Archbishop of Westminster in 1986.