St Petrock’s – All I Want Is A Home For Christmas!
Like Father Christmas’s elves, the staff at St Petrock’s, Exeter’s charity for people who are homeless are working flat out at the moment.
“We are trying to give our clients what they most want and need in this season of goodwill and frosty nights: a home. Luckily, local people are behind us in this task, which is increasingly becoming more difficult”.
Lucy Patrick explains. She’s the charity’s External Communication Manager.
Indeed, the number of people accessing drop-in housing advice, welfare and support services in St Petrock’s centre has increased by around a third in the past 3 years. Project Manager, Mel Hartley explains,
“We have seen around 80 people in our small centre each morning so far this week. This level of increase is unsustainable – but homelessness is not inevitable, and systems can change. In the meantime we are ensuring that our clients receive an increasingly broad range of services that reflects the varied needs of people who come to our centre.”
St Petrock’s centre will be open as usual throughout the festive period and will be serving a special lunch, with gifts and games, to around 50 people on Christmas Day. The centre’s specialist housing team will be working hard to assist people off the streets into Exeter’s winter night shelter, supported accommodation and private rented tenancies across the city. This year, St Petrock’s is also pleased to be able to provide a Christmas ‘indoors’ to more people via its own supported house and resettlement project.
One St Petrock’s tenant recounted:
“In the winter, I’d come inside overnight with the emergency shelter scheme …but I always went back to my site by the bus station. Last winter when I was in, St. Petrock’s offered me a place in one of their new flats. It’s a nice flat, with a TV shower and good central heating to keep you warm in the cold weather, so I decided to go for it – it’s more of a normal way to live.”
This gentleman has been in the flat for more than a year now and although he sometimes drops into the Centre to read the newspapers or go on the Internet he cooks and eats at home and will be making his Christmas dinner there this year.
The local community is stepping up their efforts as well to support the charity during the festive seasons. Businesses such as Bill’s, the Waterfront and Trowers & Hamlins have devised special events to fundraise for us and local musicians “Sound of Sirens” have enlisted the help of their fans to provide a musical event during the “Exeter, Five Days of Light”. One local knitter, Natalie Morrison, has even staged a World Record breaking crochet marathon as a fundraising event.
One of the more unusual ideas has come from Act Studios, a local photography company. They have invented the notion of a travelling purple chair and Christmas tree that will visit beautiful sites in Devon and Cornwall in order to raise money for people who are homeless in these areas. Andrew from ACT Studios says,
“Our travelling chair is an invitation to people to sit and try and imagine what it would be like to spend a Christmas outdoor on the streets. As these pictures are often very beautiful, we are hoping people might want to use them and donate money to St Petrock’s”.
Lucy Patrick says,
“I am astounded at the level of community support for this project. Throughout November and December, people have been constantly knocking on our door with gifts of money, toiletries and food. We’re really fortunate this year to have Verity Roberts and Anna Hudson who will be donating 83 boxes of mince pies to us!”
St Petrock’s has also been receiving increased amounts of donated items from our Wishlist, such as sleeping bags, rucksacks, trainers and waterproofs in recent weeks and our volunteer team is working flat out to ensure that they are all appropriately stored and sorted.
“Our store room is looking more and more like Santa’s Grotto!”
exclaims Linda Sillifant, the Kitchen Manager at St Petrock’s.
“We’ve had some really large collections by Manaton WI and schools all around Devon have helped with the winter provisions and we are lucky to have so many people willing to volunteer at this time of year, just to help sort all the donations being delivered at the door. Our only problem is that we have a limited storage area so we can only really take in what is most useful for our clients but we’re looking in pretty good shape currently for colder weather.”
“We recognise that St Petrock’s is extremely fortunate to have strong local support ready to help fund vital services and making them accessible to individuals who are homeless. It’s true to say without community support we could not survive. We would like to thank everyone for the support they have shown St Petrock’s over the last year and wish you all a peaceful Christmas and best wishes for the New Year.”
If you would like to support the work of St Petrock’s this Christmas, cheques can be made payable to St Petrock’s (Exeter) Ltd and sent to 10 Cathedral Yard, Exeter, EX1 1HJ. Alternately please go to its website www.stpetrocks.org.uk or Facebook page for online donations and details of most needed items.