As the festive season approaches, St Petrock’s, a prominent homelessness charity in Exeter, has launched a poignant Christmas fundraising appeal. The centerpiece of this campaign is a two-minute short film produced by Devon-based All Told, delving into the raw emotions and struggles faced by individuals rebuilding their lives after experiencing homelessness.
The video showcases four local individuals who attribute their successful reintegration into society to the support provided by St Petrock’s. Among them is Alfie, who spent eight years living on the streets after growing up in the care system. Reflecting on the hardships of Christmas, Alfie recalls feeling invisible and lonely, watching families stroll by. St Petrock’s intervened, providing support that ultimately led him to secure accommodation, where he now resides with his fiancée, Naomi.
Alfie’s story is just one of many, as the number of people sleeping rough in Exeter has reached a critically high level, doubling from the previous year. On any given night, between 25 and 35 people find themselves without shelter in the city, and this number includes individuals who have recently become homeless.
Various factors contribute to homelessness, often rooted in childhood trauma or the breakdown of relationships. The loss of homelessness prevention services, coupled with the ongoing cost of living and housing crises, exacerbates the situation. St Petrock’s director, Peter Stephenson, emphasizes the profound impact of traumatic experiences on rough sleepers, stating, “Sleeping rough, people face extreme physical and mental hardship, as well as the constant danger of abuse and assault. It is incomprehensible that some still try to portray rough sleeping as if it were a lifestyle choice. No one chooses to be homeless.”
St Petrock’s, established in December 1994, is committed to providing comprehensive homelessness support. With a dedicated team and 30 volunteers, the charity assists individuals in accessing housing, healthcare, benefits, and other essential services. The charity’s center in Cathedral Yard offers hot showers, laundry facilities, phone and internet access, survival equipment, and clothing. Additionally, it provides breakfast and lunch to rough sleepers across the city on weekdays and plans to serve a full Christmas lunch to all clients on December 25, complete with gifts.
While St Petrock’s currently offers accommodation to those without a home, it actively seeks to acquire more properties for this purpose. Remarkably, almost all of its funding comes from the local community.
This Christmas, St Petrock’s faces increased demand for its services. The festive season, marked by festivities that many take for granted, intensifies the challenges faced by those experiencing extreme poverty. Memories of past Christmases, coupled with the acute feelings of social isolation and loneliness, make this period particularly difficult for individuals without a home.
To support St Petrock’s vital work during this challenging time, the charity has launched its Christmas appeal, aiming to raise funds that will directly contribute to assisting rough sleepers in need. Donations can be made on the charity’s website, where supporters can also explore options for regular contributions.
In addition to individual donations, St Petrock’s has initiated a partnership scheme for local businesses. Petrock’s Place, the charity’s vintage clothing shop on Paris Street, welcomes donations of essentials such as rucksacks, sleeping bags, and clothing, as well as small gifts like chocolate, flasks, and hairbrushes, among other items on its wish list.
As the festive season unfolds, St Petrock’s remains steadfast in its mission to bring comfort, support, and a sense of belonging to those who need it most. Through the power of community and generosity, the charity strives to make a lasting impact on the lives of individuals experiencing homelessness in Exeter.