St Martins has been given the Freedom of the City of Norwich, after more than 50 years’ service and support to people facing homelessness.
The honour was awarded by Norwich City Council at a special meeting of council on November 22.
After starting out in a garage shed in the Cathedral Close half a century ago, St Martins has grown into an established charity which provides not only hundreds of beds and homes to those in need, but delivers education, training, psychological intervention and partnership work with other city organisations.
St Martins is now a key partner in delivering Norwich City Council’s rough sleeping strategy, which seeks to break the cycle of homelessness through prevention, intervention, recovery and systemic support.
Recent examples of innovative partnership work between the organisations include the Pathways service and Somewhere Safe to Stay Hub, providing holistic specialist support and accommodation for people sleeping rough.
In her speech, Councillor Gail Harris, deputy leader of Norwich City Council said: “St Martins is a very special part of the city, employing some of the most dedicated, passionate, and professional people I have ever had the pleasure to work with.
“It has earned the love, respect and applaud of Norwich people, those who have used and benefited from their services and all those in organisations which partner with it, including this council.”
St Martins’ Chair of trustees Colin Bland said, “St Martins is honoured to receive Freedom of the City and it confirms our place in the hearts and minds of local people, including those we have supported by offering accommodation and care, and those who have supported us through donating, volunteering and advocating on our behalf.
As a charity we care deeply about the people we provide services for, and always delight in the positive progress they make. This sentiment is shared by our team members, as well as other organisations we partner with. We are committed to finding solutions to the challenges we face and adapt our services to provide for the people of Norwich when they face times of difficulty.”
The Honorary Freedom of the City is a title given to a person or organisation in recognition of their contribution to Norwich. Previous recipients include Norwich City Football Club, Sir Robert and Lady Sainsbury and Arthur Miller.
What is Freedom of the City?
The Honorary Freedom of the City is a title given to a person or organisation in recognition of their contribution to Norwich. The medieval term ‘freeman’ meant someone who was not the property of a feudal lord, but who had the right to earn money and own their own land. Today most of the practical reasons for obtaining the Freedom of the City have disappeared. Alongside the right to drive sheep into the city, other rights of freemen include being able to choose a noose made of silk rather than rope if they were convicted of a crime and sentenced to death by hanging! We didn’t quite manage to get our CEO Jan to drive a flock of sheep through Tombland, but we snapped a picture of her from the safety of their field!