Depaul, part of the global family of religious congregations and lay organisations working in the tradition of St Vincent de Paul (1580-1660), is marking its 30th anniversary of starting its mission to end homelessness in the UK and across the world.
Since 1989, Depaul has grown from a single housing project in North London to an international group of charities covering seven countries, and working at the United Nations to promote the cause of street homelessness as an issue governments need to address urgently.
Depaul was born out of the Passage Day Centre in Victoria, London. It started as a Vincentian partnership between the Daughters of Charity, the Society of St Vincent de Paul and the Passage Day Centre itself, as a response to the growing number of young people on the streets of London in the late 1980s.
Mark McGreevy OBE, Depaul Group Chief Executive, said: “I used to walk around the streets surrounding Westminster Cathedral during this period, and you witnessed a rising tide of homelessness across London.
“In particular young people were arriving in increasing numbers, normally runaways from all over the UK. They were hoping for a different life but for many they could not find work or accommodation. The safety net didn’t exist and as a result they ended up on the street.”
Cardinal Basil Hume, who saw many young people sleeping rough outside his Cathedral in Westminster, was a driving force in establishing the charity, and became its first Patron. His office secured the ongoing support of Diana, Princess of Wales who was closely involved in promoting the fledgling charity and often visited young people in Depaul’s projects.
As its name suggests, Depaul is a charity that has been guided by the example of St. Vincent de Paul and his values since its very inception.
Mr McGreevy said: “Depaul still takes its inspiration from our historical founder. If you drill down into our values and mission they all relate to direct statements made by Vincent de Paul himself. You can trace [them] back into his letters, into his writing, into his speeches. Phrases such as ‘action rather than words’, ‘work with the poorest of the poor,’ ‘inventive unto infinity’ continue to inform our work.”
Depaul International serves 20,000 homeless people each year across seven countries. Depaul also partners with DePaul University to run the Institute of Global Homelessness, in Chicago.