Worcester MP Robin Walker visited local homelessness charity St Paul’s Hostel on Friday (8th June) to learn more about the work done by a group using creativity to explore trauma and recovery, and to hear about residents’ volunteer work.

Robin met with members of the St Paul’s creative group at the Tallow Hill hostel, who explained how writing poetry and creating artwork helps them to express their emotions and deal with past trauma and adverse experiences, aiding their recovery. Some members of the group read their poems, with one member explained that “the poetry workshops gave me back my voice and confidence. It’s inspiring to write poetry and this has helped me into employment.”

Robin also learned about the group’s volunteer work with the Canal and River Trust, clearing towpaths and helping to maintain the canal in Worcester. In addition, a tour of the hostel’s new therapeutic garden provided an opportunity to see a tranquil outdoor space for residents to grow their own fruit and vegetables. The garden is also used for outdoor arts presentations, cinema nights and other events.

St Paul’s staff also gave a presentation on the hostel’s innovative ‘trauma informed approach’ to residents, which has led to a sharp decrease in police callouts to the hospital – down 41% in 6 years – and a vast improvement in the behaviour of residents. Exclusions from the hostel have also fallen dramatically, with just 6 residents excluded last year compared to 82 in 2011.

The visit comes shortly before the launch of a new multi-agency initiative in Worcester to support rough sleepers into stable accommodation. ‘Worcester Cares,’ due to be launched in July, will see clearer advice provided to members of the public about where to report rough sleepers so they can be offered support, and how to give your time or donations to approved homeless organisations.

Speaking after the visit, Robin said:

“St Paul’s do absolutely vital work with homeless people and former rough sleepers in Worcester and have done for many years. It was a real pleasure to visit them again and hear about the important work Gerry Lowman and her Creative Group are doing, using poetry and the arts to explore past trauma and develop skills and hope for the future. I was especially touched by the fact that the group had taken the time to compose a poem in honour of my 12-week-old daughter Hermione – an incredibly thoughtful gesture.”

“I was also really pleased to receive a tour of the newly renovated garden, and to hear more from St Paul’s CEO Jonathan Sutton on the focus placed on the hostel’s trauma-based approach to rehabilitating service users, which has had tremendous success in bringing down both exclusion rates and police call-outs. I know St Paul’s – alongside Maggs, CCP, the city council and local police – will play a large part in the imminent launch of the Worcester Cares strategy, which will help to better inform local residents about how best to support rough sleepers.”

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