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“They came along and lifted me up.” St Petrock’s Christmas Appeal 2023 launches

Four people who are rebuilding their lives after being homeless feature in a moving Exeter homelessness charity’s Christmas fundraising campaign.

The two-minute film focuses on the question of how it feels to be homeless, especially at Christmas.  “They came along and lifted me up” is one of the many moving statements made in the video.

The numbers of people sleeping rough in Exeter remain critically high.

Alfie, who lived on the streets for eight years after growing up in the care system, is featured in the film with his little dog, Bambi.  Speaking to St Petrock’s staff afterwards, he said: “I was grateful for a shop doorway, as often there are shutters nowadays. You have to put cardboard down to stop the damp getting in and you get ill in the winter. Once I caught pneumonia and almost died.”

The numbers of people in Exeter who are sleeping rough remain at critically high levels, after doubling last year, with a marked increase in the “flow” of people hitting the streets – a reminder that rough sleepers are not a fixed group of people, but that new people find themselves homeless every single week.

“At Christmas I felt invisible and lonely.”

Alfie explained: “At Christmas it was really hard, I used to watch people walking by with their children and felt invisible and lonely. If someone stopped to talk to me it made my day. One Christmas when it was cold, a lady bought some warm clothes for me.

”When St Petrock’s brought me hot coffee and breakfast in the morning after a freezing night, it meant everything.”

On a typical night, between 25 and 35 people are sleeping rough on the streets of Exeter, and there are many more people who are homeless but not on the streets.

St Petrock’s supported Alfie and helped him into secure accommodation, where he now lives with his fiancée, Naomi.

“They lifted me up,” he explained.

No one chooses to be homeless.

Peter Stephenson, St Petrock’s Director, said: “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.”

Produced by professional local film-makers, AllTold, the participants also explain how St Petrock’s helped them get them back on their feet.

“I had nothing. The coat I am wearing today came from St Petrock’s,” Sophie, another participant explains.

On Thursday (23 November) the film will be launched across social media by the digital team at AB Brand and Marketing, who are, for the second year running, managing digital advertising for the St Petrock’s Christmas Appeal free of charge.

Mr Stephenson added: “We’re so grateful for all the help we’ve had once again from AB Brand and Marketing, they’ve worked so hard on our behalf and they are supremely expert at what they do.”

“We’re delighted that Exeter Chiefs are broadcasting our film on the giant screens next to their pitch for the second year running. Our sincere thanks to the Chiefs’ Chairman and CEO, Tony Rowe, for caring about the work we do.”

“The film by AllTold is just wonderful, so creative and sensitively produced. We have a brilliantly supportive local community who support us all year round, however we need to step up our fundraising efforts once again due to the level of need we’re experiencing. Our Christmas film will offer an insight into the psychological hardship of homelessness.

“The need for our services has never been higher so we very much hope that along with enjoying the festivities, people might also think about those on our streets and make a donation to our Christmas appeal. Every pound will help us support those living on the streets of Exeter and move them into secure accommodation.

“Our film proves that no matter how long anyone has been homeless or however desperate they have become, there’s always hope. Lives can be rebuilt and that’s what we try to do each day.”

Donations to St Petrock’s Christmas Appeal 2023 can be made by visiting www.stpetrocks.org.uk