15 Minutes With… St Petrock’s Charity
2021 marks 25 years since the charity was launched to help tackle homelessness in and around Exeter. With the covid pandemic creating more pressure than ever and putting homelessness rates on the rise, we look at how this vital organisation continues to provide essential support.
Over 600 people a year face homelessness in Exeter and the surrounding area. Homelessness doesn’t just mean people living on the streets. It includes those with inadequate or unfit housing, people facing eviction or domestic abuse, as well as ‘sofa surfers’ – people who move around staying with family and friends.
Government stats show a 105% increase in numbers of those deemed homeless compared to last year. In Exeter alone, this number grew 19% from estimates carried out in November 2020, many of whom are facing homelessness for the first time.
It’s not an easy fix, as St. Petrock’s well know from their 25 years of providing essential first point contact for homeless people in and around Exeter. Their Cathedral Yard centre is the heart of the operations, providing the gateway to specialist services, routes to accommodation and compassionate support.
Since January this year, St. Petrock’s have supported 2,254 clients and counting, direct through their focussed support services, plus support for over 3,500 visits for things like clothing, hot showers, mobile phone charging and computer use.
Without the support of the local Devon community, the charity would not be able to provide this crucial lifeline with support costing approximately £500,000 per year. But it’s not just donations.
Volunteers form the backbone of the organisation. Between April – July, volunteers at St Petrock’s have served over 2,000 meals to rough sleepers in the city through their new mobile support team who go out twice each weekday to engage with those on the streets of Exeter.
As part of the charity’s goals for their 25th anniversary year, St. Petrock’s have launched Petrock’s Place – a circular fashion hub on Paris Street at Princesshay, right in Exeter’s city centre. The outlet will take and sell donated clothes, encouraging circular fashion and boosting local sustainability, with all profits from the shop going directly to those in need.
While donations are encouraged, it’s not the sole aim of the hub. Lucy Patrick, St Petrock’s External Communications Manager explained: “This is about so much more than a shop, we want to engage with the whole community to inform, educate and support.”
With such a prominent location, the goal is to provide talks, workshops and events to improve understanding of homelessness for Devon residents while encouraging people to contribute their skills in needlework and working with textiles to create a real community-driven enterprise. But vitally, to also provide a safe space for vulnerable people facing or dealing with homelessness to learn new skills to help with employability.
As with all of their projects, the goal is to make a long-lasting difference, while providing lifesaving support in the interim.
After 25 years, the challenge remains. But as long as it does, so does the support of St Petrock’s.
If you would like to find out more about St Petrock’s and how you can get involved in supporting their vital work, visit www.stpetrocks.org.uk
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This manageable there and back route offers easy walking and wheeling along the eastern side of the reservoir and to the dams, plus additional access to the wildlife trail in the Burrator Arboretum