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The ‘Hungry Hobos’ team on the raft they built at the University of Chester’s Queen’s Park Campus ahead of Sunday’s Raft Race.

The University has provided space at its Queen’s Park Campus for local homelessness coordination group, Outside In, who in turn have been supporting a team of homeless people to build their own raft.

Outside In was formed over two years ago, and brings together around 30 organisations focused on homelessness within the Cheshire West and Chester area. (The University is part of the group.) Its remit is to ensure challenge, support and direction to statutory, commissioned and voluntary homelessness services across the borough.

The Chester Raft Race takes place in the Groves on the River Dee this Sunday (June 30). It is an annual charity event and is organised by the Rotary Club of Chester and the Chester Round Table. Outside In was approached by a benefactor who wishes to remain anonymous, who asked whether the group wanted to submit a raft to this year’s competition.

Helen Anthony, from Outside In, said: “Needless to say, we jumped at the chance! We decided that this was a raft which would be built and paddled by people who are currently homeless or who had been homeless within the last few months – but with the support from us and our supporters to get them to that point. The team has come up with their own name – ‘Hungry Hobos’ – and their own ‘strapline’ - #HomelessNotHopeless, which fits perfectly with their attitude to this project, and to life in general.

“Supported by us volunteers, the team has spent the last week working on the raft at Queen’s Park. The barrels and the raft base have been loaned by a Share volunteer, and local charity, Age UK Cheshire’s Men in Sheds, have been lending their physical support and expertise to build the raft. The support doesn’t stop there though –  Port Van Sales has very kindly arranged for Outside In to use their small vehicle transporter to take the raft to and from the venue. Most of the organisations that are part of Outside In have helped in some way so it is a truly collaborative project.”

James, one of the crew of ‘Hungry Hobos’, has been working on the raft, ready to paddle it down the Dee on Sunday. He said: “We can’t wait for the race on Sunday. The raft is looking good and building it has been a great experience. Look out for the Hungry Hobos.”

Helen added: “This project has created a lovely, positive team spirit feeling. On Saturday, the team was absolutely buzzing from the experience of building a raft together. The team has had something positive to focus on and aim towards. It’s about pulling together, and it has been great for lifting their spirits. We also hope that this may lead to more partnership working with Men in Sheds – and that some of the group may want to do more work with them in the future.” 

Louise Collins is the Community Liaison Manager at the University of Chester, who also represents the University on the Outside In group. She said: “I am really happy that the University has been able to support the work of Outside In and would like to thank the Vice-Chancellor and my colleagues at Queen’s Park Campus who helped make this happen. Best of luck to the Outside In raft racers!”

More information about the Chester Raft Race can be found at: http://www.chesterraftrace.org.uk/

 

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