Over the past fourteen years I have been privileged to work with a wonderful organisation that supports street homeless people here in Cornwall – St Petroc’s Society.
I was working in public health at the time and was shocked to discover that the average life expectancy for a person living on the streets was 46! I was outraged that this could be the case in a wealthy developed country and this caused me to look at what I could do to help address this issue. I met Steve Ellis, the Chief Executive of St Petroc’s Society, on a leadership course and was inspired by him and the Society and we worked together to establish Cornwall’s Health for Homeless Service. Since then I have worked with the Society on a number of projects – a photographic exhibition, poster campaigns, drop-in arts sessions – and most recently put together this publication to celebrate the Society’s 30th anniversary.
I interviewed a number of people who have been associated with the Society over the years, and their stories about how they got involved provide a fascinating insight into how the Society has developed – from providing a few hostel beds into an organisation employing over 30 people and providing a wide range of services and support. The changes in the clients that St Petroc’s supports was commented on by many – younger people and people with a range of complex needs that are currently not being met by statutory services. What hasn’t changed though are the underlying values and integrity of the organisation, exemplified by Steve Ellis, whose inspiration proved a common factor for all my interviewees.
The resulting book, superbly designed by Two design agency, was launched at an event in Truro late last year; all the books were wrapped in hand-printed papers which had been designed by staff and clients at a print workshop at John Howard Print Studios.
I am currently working with St Petroc’s Society on a new campaign to end street homelessness in Cornwall so watch this space for more news.