Cornerstone’s Cracket shop is not just a great place to view and buy our sheds and furniture, it is a one-stop hub where people living in the 10% most deprived area in the UK can find out about and link up with all local support services in one venue.
This venue has been adapted for purpose and delivers maximum impact to make life considerably more equal and happier for those who visit.
The small Owton Manor shop is now bursting at the seams at 13 Wynyard Road.
In 2016 Cornerstone opened its the Cracket Shop with considerable social investment from The Virgin Money Foundation.
The venture was originally set up to sell its furniture and offer volunteer opportunities for its supported housing tenants who also used it for craft activities and support work drop-ins.
Very quickly, the supported housing tenants took ownership of the premises, setting up their own peer-led groups sharing their experiences and knowledge in response to need among themselves. The strongest and most influential of these groups remains The Women’s Group. Many of these groups extended membership to people living outside of Cornerstone in the Owton Manor area. The effect snowballed and groups and demand for services grew.
The hub became more cemented in the community when the Cracket’s groups asked to be more involved in helping the charity’s Rough Sleeper Outreach worker to deliver peer-led support to those straight off the street. In 2018 – and in response to the Cracket’s stakeholders personal experience – volunteers and staff decided to found Hartlepool Network Forum. They had found that support services were difficult to access and that there were many barriers to gaining what they needed to help them move forward. They set about bringing advice and support service together with those who use the service. In this way, members of the community could feedback to the forum to improve service delivery create a better face-to-face relationship and foster the community’s trust in them.
Three organisations joined the first forum but by 2019, Cornerstone’s Cracket has been a regular drop-in meeting venue for 14 of the most influential advice and support charities and services across Hartlepool. The Forum is a now a strong and mutually beneficial collaboration of local community members and service beneficiaries, Cornerstone, local drug and alcohol services, Harbour, DWP, advice@hart, The Borough Council’s housing advice team, Poolie Time Exchange, Step Forward Tees Valley, Probation Services, Social Care, Communities of Hope, Mind, Belle Vue Community Centre, Kilmarnock Community Centre, West Vue Advice Centre, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Hartlepool Food Bank, Baby Bank, People’s Centre, Changing Futures, Home Group, Sanctuary 21 and Families First. Cornerstone and The Cracket also work with Hartlepool policing team, Neighbourhood Services, Hartlepower, Hartlepool Food Network and The Annex, Welfare Support Team and Starfish CIC but not a part of the forum.
Hartlepool Network Forum now collectively identifies community needs and organises the breadth of its services to engage and meet those needs. Cornerstone operates as a gateway and not gatekeeper organisation offering up timetabled hours and facilities free of charge to all its forum members and encouraging a new organisation to chair its planning meetings each month. At the Cracket, Cornerstone and its partner, stakeholders are able to engage some of the most hard-to-reach members of the community in a place where they feel safe, able to be themselves and be valued.
Many people who are attracted to the Cracket are greatest risk from social isolation and suffer major economic and financial disadvantage and hardship.
The Cracket provides a space where all community members and in particular those from groups identified as in need of extra help to thrive where they can access free advocacy and access to public services, training and education for employment and to raise self-esteem, self-confidence and aspiration.
Varied peer-led and stakeholder-led groups bring a variety of community members together who might not ordinarily meet aiding the breakdown of misinformation, misconceptions and prejudices.
The facility hosts food and clothing banks, is a member of the FareShare supermarket food scheme, and during school holidays of the COVID-19 lockdown and Tier 3/4 restrictions, its staff and volunteers helped to hand out packed meals to children in receipt of free school meals vouchers.
Many of our support groups are peer-led and fill gaps identified in support by the members themselves.