Exeter homelessness charity St Petrock’s has launched its Christmas 2023 fundraising appeal with a short film exploring how it feels to be homeless.
The two-minute video, produced by Devon film-makers All Told, features four local people who are rebuilding their lives following homelessness.
Each credits St Petrock’s with helping them get them back on their feet.
Alfie, who appears in the film, grew up in the care system and lived on the streets for eight years. He says Christmas was particularly hard: “Watching people walking by with their children, I felt invisible and lonely”.
St Petrock’s supported Alfie and helped him into secure accommodation where he now lives with his fiancée, Naomi.
He adds: “I was just a lonely man in a lonely doorway. Then Petrock’s came along and and lifted me up”.
The number of people sleeping rough in Exeter remains at a critically high level after doubling last year.
On a typical night, between 25 and 35 people sleep rough on the streets of Exeter. They are not a static group: people find themselves newly-homeless every week.
Many others are homeless but not living on the streets.
There are many causes of homelessness, although it often has roots in childhood trauma or later events such as the breakdown of relationships.
The loss of homelessness prevention services and the cost of living and housing crises have made the situation worse.
St Petrock’s director Peter Stephenson says: “Sadly, we’re all too familiar with seeing people living on our streets and of course there are many others, hidden from view, sleeping in garages or sheds, on sofas or in cars.
“All of them have had things happen in their lives that most of us thankfully will never experience, and it is that traumatic experience that lies at the root of rough sleeping.
“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 began providing homelessness support in December 1994. Its team, supported by 30 volunteers, helps people to access housing, healthcare, benefits and other essential services.
From its centre in Cathedral Yard it provides hot showers, laundry facilities, phone and internet access and supplies survival equipment and clothing.
It also prepares and serves breakfast and lunch to rough sleepers across the city each weekday. It will provide a full Christmas lunch to all its clients on 25 December, with gifts.
The charity also provides accommodation for people without a home and is actively pursuing the purchase of more properties for this purpose.
Almost all its funding comes from the local community.
St Petrock’s Christmas appeal aims to raise funds to support its work at what it is a difficult time of year for rough sleepers.
The festivities many take for granted can make the experience of extreme poverty suffered by those without a home more severe.
They often also bring back difficult memories of past Christmases, of loss or trauma fuelled by festive excess, at a time when social isolation and loneliness can feel acute.
This year the demand for St Petrock’s support is higher than it has ever been.
You can donate to the St Petrock’s Christmas appeal on its website, where you can also find out more about regularly supporting its work.
The charity has also recently launched a partnership scheme for local businesses.
Petrock’s Place, its vintage clothing shop in Paris Street, accepts donations of essentials such as rucksacks, sleeping bags and clothing as well as small gifts such as chocolate, flasks and hairbrushes, among other things on its wish list.
The shop is open from 11am-5.30pm Tuesday to Saturday and can be contacted to arrange a drop-off via [email protected].