MORE than 80 organisations are teaming up to tackle vulnerability across the city.
Portsmouth Football Club, the British Red Cross, ArtReach and the University of Portsmouth are among the those that will be joined by faith and community group leaders to mark the launch of Portsmouth City of Sanctuary.
Today a launch event will be held for the new network, which aims to connect important projects and services across the city to offer support to vulnerable groups in the community.
Among the groups involved is Veterans Outreach Support, which helped Falklands veteran Nigel Turner, 65, deal with his post-traumatic stress disorder.
Mr Turner was among those trying to save casualties in 1982 when HMS Sheffield was hit by an Exocet missile.
He said: ‘After I was diagnosed in 2010 I was on a waiting list for help. It got to 2015 and I still hadn’t got any help.
‘I saw the sign for VOS and went in. I was seen in 30 minutes by a psychiatrist and had counselling for the next 11 weeks. Now I am a VOS volunteer because I believe in the work they do and although it is incredibly cliche to say I want to give back to them and help other people to turn their lives around.
‘They have truly saved my life.’
Now Portsmouth City of Sanctuary hopes to recreate successes like Mr Turner’s case with a wider network.
Malcolm Little, service manager for Hampshire at the British Red Cross, said: ‘Through signposting and joining up existing dots, rather than replicating, the movement will bring together organisations that are working to support vulnerable and isolated people across the city.
‘Whether you have been here four days or four decades, are a refugee, a struggling veteran, homeless or socially isolated, there is support available under the City of Sanctuary banner to meet your needs.’
The city will join the existing network of over 100 City of Sanctuary groups across the UK and Ireland, including Southampton, Chichester, Sheffield and Bristol.
The organisations will work within five main areas; health, education, advocacy, sports and arts and theatre.
Matthew Weait, dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Portsmouth, said: ‘The university is proud to support Portsmouth City of Sanctuary.
‘We are committed to the values that the City of Sanctuary initiative promotes, and its ambitions to ensure a hospitable environment to refugees, asylum seekers, and all those who experience exclusion or isolation.
‘As a civic university, we will continue to work with partners in the city to make it a place where no-one, irrespective of their circumstances, feels unwelcome.’
Representatives from the organisations are due to join councillors at Portsmouth Guildhall this afternoon for the launch event with speeches and performances from Global Sounds Portsmouth, a unique music project bringing together musicians from around the world who live in Portsmouth, and pupils from Admiral Lord Nelson School.
The initiative is non-political and non-religious and is based on shared principles of inclusiveness, openness and participation.
David Hill, founding director and chair of ArtReach, added: ‘The Portsmouth City of Sanctuary is an important step towards a more integrated city, a city that can celebrate diversity and flourish due to a range of cultures working together.
‘As the producers of Journeys Festival International Portsmouth, a festival that explores the refugee experience through great art, it was important for ArtReach to be a catalyst in this process. It is heart-warming to see all these organisations join the initiative and we hope that together we can make Portsmouth a sanctuary for all and a great place for everyone to thrive in together.’
To learn more about Portsmouth City of Sanctuary and get involved visit portsmouth.cityofsanctuary.org/