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Islander takes part in trek for a cause close to his heart

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‘PEOPLE see others drinking in the park and make a judgment, rather than understanding why they are there.’

Mark Cox on a charity trek in Jordan

Co-operative Society acting chief executive Mark Cox might not be the obvious spokesperson on homelessness in Jersey but it is a topic that is close to home for the 50-year-old.

His late brother Paul, who died in September 2018, spent years in the care of Sanctuary Trust after drug and alcohol addiction snowballed following the death of their father from cancer in 1999 and then later their mother.

It is this thought – and the ‘amazing support’ that Sanctuary Trust gave to his brother – that Mr Cox says will be in his mind as he embarks on the fundraising trip for the charity up Mount Kilimanjaro next Wednesday.

The Islander is embarking on an eight-day trek to the summit of the 5,895m peak – Africa’s tallest mountain. He will face near 30°C temperatures in humid rainforest conditions at the bottom and -15°C at the top.

Training for the challenge, which he signed up to only six weeks ago, has consisted of jaunts along the Island’s north coast because, as he recognises, mountains are few and far between in Jersey. Last October he took part in a charity trek in Jordan to raise money for Jersey Cheshire Homes, which he says helped improve his level of fitness, but dealing with the effects of altitude may be harder.

To date he has raised more than £1,000, having set a target of £750. He points out that £10 feeds a homeless person in crisis for three days.

Mr Cox added that staff at the Co-op and friends and family had been extremely supportive, but the trip was as much about raising awareness as money.

He said: ‘Paul spent time at Sanctuary’s shelters in St Aubin and then in New Street and the support he received was nothing short of amazing. He died in September 2018 having battled with addiction, an issue he could not overcome.

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‘But the whole topic of homelessness in Jersey is something people don’t like to talk about. When you see some of the social-media comments after they did the event in the car park [the Sleep Out for Sanctuary Trust at Pier Road Car Park], I think there is a real lack of understanding and awareness of the issues in Jersey.

‘Whether it’s a case that people are embarrassed to talk about it or acknowledge it, I don’t know.

‘People see people in the park drinking and make assumptions as to who they are rather than trying to understand why they are there. Paul was part of that community and that is what it is was to him; a community. It was a group of people who generally supported each other.’

St Helier officials have said in the past they have considered working to introduce a ban on people drinking in public parks in the past. Parade Gardens was highlighted as a problem area. No such ban has ever been introduced.

For more information on Mr Cox’s challenge visit justgiving.com and search Mark Cox.

Jack Maguire

By Jack Maguire
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