By Pastor Pete Cunningham
It is an honour and privilege to be carrying the Olympic Torch through Cleveleys on Friday – for the homeless.
When you see me in my flat cap and white tracksuit, torchbearer 109, feel free to shout a big hello. My name is Pastor Pete. Like many torch bearers I am part of a team, in my case a team with a passion to eradicate homelessness.
At Green Pastures we have worked alongside the locally-based Mulberry Project for more than a year. The work Keith Stevenson and the team do there is fantastic. We share his vision, as reported in The Gazette, for an “outbreak of recovery”.
That’s why Green Pastures, a registered ethical investment opportunity, purchased a second property for the project, and is looking at a third. The Mulberry Community Project offers two safe houses, in Blackpool, at secret locations, for those fighting to recover from addiction. Its sole purpose is to help people serious about recovery from substance misuse. Green Pastures Housing exists to eradicate homelessness. It supports partners in many ways, one of which is by the purchase of property. It offers support services and assists with objectives. Homeless people and substance addicts get clean, then need care and love to begin to build self-esteem. They can then begin to look at training, ready for employment. This can take a long time.
Homelessness is created in many ways, but one of the highest causes is substance abuse. It wrecks lives, and wreaks havoc in families. The problem is larger than people actually think, or are told.
We founded Green Pastures 13 years ago with a specific model that we believe can eradicate homelessness. In the last five years we have teamed up with organisations across the UK. We have seen more than 1,100 people permanently housed, and have 240 houses which are home to 400 people permanently. We have seen homelessness almost eradicated in Southport, and greatly reduced in Wigan. But the task is greater in times of austerity, and when politicians make new rules without consulting those at ground level. When I discovered I was to run with the torch, I was overwhelmed.
I know that when torch bearer 109 departs on his 510 steps, every step will be a prayer for the homeless, their plight, our solution and times ahead when lives will be transformed by the work of people such as Keith and his team.
* I have just learned I will be allowed to have my grandson Noah, 11, with me at the ‘kissing’ of the torch. Noah has Dechenne Muscular Dystrophy and is in a wheelchair.