Artist adds a dash of colour to bring creative ideas to life at town hostel

Si Mitchell with Salvation Army residents

Si Mitchell with Salvation Army residents - Credit: Archant

A renowned graffiti artist has been working with homeless youngsters in Huntingdon to help brighten up the Kings Ripton Court Lifehouse.

Si Mitchell, who has worked with the likes of boyband McFly and drinks manufacturer Pepsi, turned a series of creative ideas into reality by helping the youngsters spray-paint a mural, which depicts their own journey from homelessness, to brighten up their hostel garden.

The finished artwork was designed and spray-painted by residents of the Lifehouse in Huntingdon, a residential centre offering accommodation and personalised support for 36 young people aged 16-25. It is managed by the Salvation Army.

Inspiration for the design came from the residents’ own personal experience of issues including homelessness, substance misuse and mental health conditions.

Sophie, 20, who is a resident at the hostel, said: “The world with supporting hands represents that people at Kings Ripton Court are here to support each other. The stars represent when we first move in and are in a dark place and we’ve been in bad situations, and then the sun represents that it’s all changed, the environment’s got a lot better and there’s security and safety for us.”

Mr Mitchell said: “They worked really well as a team, coming up with their own narrative, having a go at spray-painting and helping each other.”

The project came about thanks to the Salvation Army’s partnership with CASUS, a team from Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Trust which offers substance misuse sessions at the centre.

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Joy Raggett, programme co-ordinator at Kings Ripton Court, said: “We’re so grateful to Si for helping the residents complete this project.

“When volunteers come and spend time with the residents it helps us show the young people that other people are interested in them, that people do want to listen to them and work with them – it boosts their confidence.”

In addition to a personalised support programme that helps each young person work through the issues that have led to their homelessness, the staff offer a variety of courses and activities to build a sense of community and develop skills.

Training includes budgeting, shopping and cooking, tenancy management, relationships and communication while activities include gardening, baking, sewing, fundraising campaigns, barbecues and trips.

Ms Raggett said: “Many of our residents have faced challenges that have left them with low self-esteem and feeling isolated. We hope that when each resident is ready to leave our care, they will be equipped and empowered to lead independent and fulfilling lives.”