Three old school friends – Tom Pelham, Arthur Kinnaird and Quintin Hogg – were so moved by the poverty around them, they felt driven to do something about it. They founded an organisation called Homes for Working Boys.
By the 1920s there were now six Homes for Working Boys across London including one in Bloomsbury, Central London, and in Dulwich, South London. This was in addition to the first service near The Strand, London, that would provide somewhere to live for homeless boys and young men in the capital.
Another group of philanthropists – the Reverend Prebendary Gage-Brown and parishioner Constance Allen – formed the Fellowship of St Christopher. They started opening doors to provide accommodation for homeless and jobless men who were sleeping rough in London.
World War II presented new difficulties for both organisations. Some of their homes were taken over as accommodation for soldiers, whilst others were destroyed during the Blitz. In spite of the challenges, the organisations still managed to provide housing for the young men who needed it. Large numbers of these men went on to fight in the war and many were decorated for their bravery. One, named Arthur Knowland, even received the Victoria Cross, the highest honour that soldiers can receive. We honoured his memory by naming one of our 16+ services after him, Knowland House.
The Fellowship began to accept young offenders into its homes to help them get their lives back on track.
William Beveridge, one of the architects of the welfare state, was key to introducing social reform during and after World War II. Beveridge cited both Homes for Working Boys and the Fellowship of St Christopher in his 1948 ‘Voluntary Action’ volume as good examples of the role that charities could play. He praised their independence, initiative and flexibility, and saw them as key components in the full development of the welfare state.
Today’s St Christopher’s Fellowship is born when Homes for Working Boys and the Fellowship of St Christopher’s merged together. The first priority was to provide staffed homes for children and young people in care. Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, came to visit and meet with some of our young people.
St Christopher’s launched its first leaving care services in the 1970s, providing independent flats with 24-hour support. This meant young people could transition into independent living with fall-back support if they needed it.
Registering as a Housing Association, as well as a charity, enabled St Christopher’s to support even more young homeless people. Even today St Christopher’s is one of the only children’s charities that is also a registered Housing Association.
In London, St Christopher’s opened a new type of service – supported housing. Over the next 20 years St Christopher’s partnered with larger housing associations and local authorities to increase the number of young people who could be supported.
St Christopher’s established a specialist service for young black men in South East London. The service was designed to work with those who felt no investment in their local communities and support them to become more involved.
HRH Princess Diana re-opened Howard House, a building that has been part of St Christopher’s since 1926. The service was now a therapeutic home for children who had suffered sexual abuse. Nowadays it is one of our 16+ services.
Glenda Jackson, MP for Hampstead and Highgate, opened our children’s home in North London designed for young people aged 13-15. Residents could access support from health and education resources, as well as the renowned Tavistock Institute (now The Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust).
St Christopher’s began providing children’s services on the Isle of Man in 2004. Since then we have expanded our work on the island to include care leaver support, therapeutic work and secure care.
Our first foster family joined our West Midlands regional office in 2006 and we soon expanded our number of carers in that area. We then began working in Essex and our Eastern Region office was born, also covering Peterborough and London.
We work with academics at the Centre for Abuse and Trauma Studies (CATS) at Middlesex University to develop Attachment Style Interview and Q-Pack tools. This partnership propelled St Christopher’s to the forefront of attachment theorists and means we can tailor our care to each young person’s needs.
All staff and foster carers are trained in social pedagogy. Our Head, Heart, Hands approach means we use our knowledge, emotional intelligence and practical skills to work with children and young people. Social pedagogy helps us to be more reflective, creative and ambitious in everything we do.
With support from the Department for Education we set up Safe Steps, two residential children’s homes for girls at risk of sexual exploitation. The pilot was designed as an all alternative to sending young women far away from their local communities or placing them in secure accommodation for their own protection.
The Department for Education provided further support to pilot a Staying Close model for care leavers, which has transformed our practice. Young people lead on service delivery to ensure their needs are met by our staff and accommodation.
2020 marks 150 years of St Christopher's supporting people in society. Since our beginning as a charity for impoverished boys and young men, we have developed and grown into an organisation that strives to do the best for young people in care, leaving care, on the edge of care or experiencing homelessness.