Tuesday, April 7, 2009 - 11:50

People in the St. Austell area are being asked to hand over their unwanted keys to help unlock the potential of homeless and disadvantaged people.

The Key is the name of the Eden Project’s unique show garden being planned for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in May and thousands of keys are needed to line its pathways.

Collecting pots have been installed in the St. Austell branch of Timpson locksmiths in Old Vicarage Place, as well as throughout the London area.

The garden is the product of a unique and ambitious collaboration between the Homes and Communities Agency, Communities and Local Government, Eden and Homeless Link.

It is being designed by Paul Stone of the Eden Project, who already has a clutch of Chelsea gold medals under his belt. Homeless people and prisoners around the country are growing most of the required stock of 10,000 plants.

Paul Stone, who is working on the design with the charity Architecture sans Frontières-UK, said: “The idea behind the garden is that it echoes the life journeys that people are making. It is a symbol of being locked up - whether in prison or just by a lack of opportunity - but also a means of opening doors and being released.

“We need tonnes of keys for the paths so we would like the people of St. Austell to dig deep in their pockets and give us their old and unwanted ones. We are very grateful to Timpson for allowing us to use its branches, and to Cisco Systems who are organising the delivery and collection of the pots.”

He added: “The Key is a catalyst for long-term change and ongoing work, by increasing employment prospects for the participants who have gained new life skills and training through their involvement in the project.”

The Key is highlighting the work of Places of Change, an £80m capital improvement funding programme managed by the Homes and Communities Agency which seeks to improve services for people who are homeless.

The programme aims to identify, encourage, engage and realise the potential of homeless people enabling them to move on with, and turn around, their lives. Thanks to the programme’s support, to date over 500 people have entered employment.

Richard Cunningham, HCA’s manager in charge of the Places of Change programme added: “The RHS garden is not only a practical way of showcasing the types of abilities and skills that are being developed across our whole programme but it’s also a real opportunity for those service users involved to gain on the job experience that will be of immense value in the future. Nationally, our programme offers practical support and training that gives people a great chance to release their potential and change their lives.”

Chris Fields, Chief Executive of St George's Crypt in Leeds, said, “We are delighted to be working with the Eden Project and to be involved with The Key show garden. Our residents are thrilled that they can be part of this great initiative which highlights what is possible in transforming their lives and above all in being valued.”

The Key Garden aims to be completely sustainable. All the materials used to are from recycled or sustainable sources. After the show the garden will be broken down and re-used.