Instead of applying for grants to help homeless people find work, St Petrock’s have established ‘Project Petrock’, a social enterprise business that really helps homeless people back into work.
Life and Basic Skills Tutor, Keith Johnson at St Petrock’s, says, “The idea came from the fact we were seeing so many people who have trade skills but didn’t have a current work record or the belief that they can start again. The funding market is also very competitive and changeable so we wanted to develop a more self-sufficient, commercial solution; the Project Petrock social enterprise was born.”
A social enterprise differs from what people might see as a traditional business because it has social objectives to deliver as the focus of the business; profits are reinvested for that purpose in the business or the community.
Project Petrock offers house and garden maintenance services to customers. All aspects of general house and garden services are currently provided, such as painting, decorating, carpentry, tiling, plumbing. Project Petrock covers Exeter and the surrounding area with plans to move further afield in time to cover East and South Devon.
The employees are people who are or have recently been homeless and offer them the possibility of learning new skills, the opportunity to re-employ old skills and also, to train other members of the business. “Members of the project work closely with skilled mentors” says Keith, adding, “They also receive support from key workers at St Petrock’s.” This combination means they quickly become valuable assets to the business and themselves.
Importantly, Project Petrock is a co-operative, owned and run jointly by its members. One of the reasons they chose this business model was to ensure the social enterprise business main function never became the raising of money for St Petrock’s. “We wanted the people who are part of it to become employees and learn how to run a company” says Keith. He added, “One day Project Petrock will be run by people who have direct experience of homelessness and seen how this enterprise can change lives.”
Project Petrock received free business mentoring through a scheme funded by Exeter City Council. Delivered by The Fruit Tree for Business, the scheme supports the start up and growth of social enterprise and creation of local jobs. Keith says the support was invaluable, “we would never be as far ahead as we are without help creating the social enterprise and developing a sound business plan”. Lorna Turner, Partner of The Fruit Tree, “creating social enterprises within Exeter provides good jobs, and supports the local economy”.
Cllr Rosie Denham, Lead Councillor for Economy and Tourism, Exeter City Council said, “We are delighted. Social enterprises play an important part in the local economy, giving people opportunities to find paid work and creating much needed jobs. Moreover, helping people to have a fresh start through Project Petrock and lead independent lives, learn new skills or coach others with the skills they have is a welcome approach to developing people and strengthening their confidence”; she added, “Support for social enterprises forms part of the City Council’s assistance for local businesses. Exeter Business Support is another example of free business advice and support which we fund that helps local people start up and run small commercial businesses in the city”.