The Colchester Community Poetry Project

Alice Goss, one of Colchester’s historians, talks about her latest project to assist our town’s homeless guests.

The homeless situation in Colchester, as in other towns, is rising alarmingly and there are too many people living on our streets, all trying to access the few resources that are open to them. There are many people and organisations in the town who are trying to assist them, Beacon House, Emmaus and the GO4 café, along with many individuals who give up their time to help this sector of our community. Yes ‘our community’ as these homeless people are as important in our town as those with homes to go to. How would you feel if someone you knew or a family member was sleeping in a doorway in wet, freezing conditions? There is a small army of volunteers who give up their time to help homeless people, many professional people who help, and there are those through the church who help, with the St. Peter’s Guest House project is a success story now active in its third year. This project ensures that some of our homeless are kept warm and nourished, in a safe, sheltered accommodation over the winter months.

So why am I doing this project? I spent all of last year unemployed, which drove me into a severe financial situation, so much so that I could have lost my home and potentially been homeless myself. The thought of losing everything and then having to rely on the generosity of others to help me rebuild my life, was a situation I did not want to face, and the reality of my situation began to hit home. As I looked into the state of homelessness in Colchester I was struck by the limited resources available and by the generosity of the good people of Colchester in supporting homeless charities. I am now working (albeit part time, working nights) doing a job that I don’t want to do, but it’s a job and one which will keep me housed. I therefore set out to find some way of assisting the community to which I could have belonged, and as a business woman (self-employed for 18 years) I had all the skills to which I could utilise in devising and executing a project like this.

So, what exactly is this project?

This project is to establish a poetry book, which will consist of 100+ poems, all on a theme relating to Colchester (the castle, River Colne, churches, arts scene, transport, aspects of the town’s history, priory, Hythe, military, Roman Circus etc..) accompanied by photos of the town, articles, case studies profiles, an introduction, illustrations, a preface and a foreward. There will also be an index of poets and an acknowledgements section for those businesses who have contributed to the costs of the book. I already have two businesses who are contributing their resources and I expect others will follow shortly.

The finished book will be a hard back, of around 200-250 pages and all the profits generated will go to help fund homeless projects (through Emmaus – although the exact details of how the money will be allocated is still to be finalised) within the town to help our homeless guests.

What I’m asking of the good people of Colchester to please support this project in either of two ways. Either be one of the many who will contribute a poem if they feel able to write one or alternatively, people can support the project by making a financial contribution towards the production/advertising/marketing costs of the book by donating through the gofundme page.

This is a bold initiative undertaken by myself, but with the help and support of Colchester’s people, then together we can make this project a reality. In my opinion, there is something very wrong with our society if we have people living on our streets. Homelessness is a nationwide problem which seems to be escalating and it’s time that our homeless guests were helped more by the housed community. Thank you for reading this and for your support.

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Alice Goss