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Lessons from London’s largest winter night shelter
What is Glass Door? • Glass Door is a charity that exists to support people who are homeless. • We are open to all. • We operate a drop-in all year around and night shelters during the winter months. • We work with local churches to deliver our services.
Local London Statistics • London always has far more rough sleepers than the rest of the country. • Visible: Over 8, 000 different people seen sleeping rough in London last year. • Hidden: Countless people sleeping on buses, squats, friends sofas, hostels, and shelters. • Most are men: only about 15% are female.
Our Services To help our guests get off the streets and give them a chance to rebuild their lives, we offer three main components of support: • A safe place to sleep in winter • Drop-in centres where basic needs can be met • Caseworkers to help our guests find and keep employment and housing
Our Night Shelters • Three shelter circuits= shelter for up to 100 people per night • They run during the coldest months November -April • Located in churches (K&C, H&F and Wandsworth) • Staff & Volunteers • We provide dinner every night and breakfast in the mornings
Our Drop-ins • Year Round Drop-in at Chelsea Methodist Church for up to 100 people a day. Open 3 days a week • Partner with another centre in Kensington on the other 2 days of the week • Run an additional centre in the winter in Fulham • Showers, laundry and lunch available at our centres
We don’t just provide a place to sleep and wash… Any guest who uses our services can arrange to see a caseworker. Our caseworkers provide guests with one-to-one support, advice and information. “The hope is that we leave those that come to us in crisis in a stable, supported situation off the streets” – Neil Parkinson Caseworker
Casework Service • Caseworkers attend the night shelters once a week to make connections • Guests are encouraged to engage • Caseworkers arrange appointments with guests to come and see them in the drop-in
Funding our shelters • Churches • Charitable Trusts • Donations • People and events • No Local Authority Funding
What we find works • • Open access Meeting the basic needs-food & shelter first Taking a flexible approach Providing stability and respite These all enable us to build trust
Our Ethos Our services are open to anyone who needs us with no criteria How do other organisations receive/accept referrals of new clients?
Challenges we face Discussion: What are some of the challenges you think we face because of our ethos? - Guests were staying longer in the shelters - Less people were getting in - Some guests were never engaging and coming back year on year - Drop-in centres were completely full
Changes we’ve made • • Offering people a 90 day stay in the shelter Reviewing their progress at 60 days Telling people they will have to leave if they don’t engage Limiting an individual’s stay to two seasons What happened? Last winter, 3 people were asked to leave the shelter for not engaging. We weren’t able to offer them any alternative. About 10 people are still homeless and won’t be able to return to the shelter due to the two season rule. We aren’t sure what’s going to happen to these people.
Case Study - the moral dilemma Peter had been a drinker for most of his adult life and homeless for the past 7 years, either staying with friends, sleeping rough or accessing our night shelters during winter. He had previously been reluctant to engage with support, even refusing to claim benefits. Several months ago he began opening up to our caseworkers and also to Kensington & Chelsea outreach team. A combined effort over 3 months led to the possibility of Peter securing a tenancy on a local authority flat in Lambeth. After making an initial benefit claim it transpired that someone had been fraudulently claiming JSA in Peter’s name for several years. Simon, our caseworker, helped Peter through this complicated issue and we secured a furniture grant from St Mungos and helped Peter move into his new place. Peter told us is very happy with his new home and we continue to support him to ensure he is able to keep it.
Case Study – helping those that others can’t Mohammad came to our night shelters in the beginning of the season. He was an Iranian national in his 60’s who had severe physical needs. He was on crutches and had a visual impairment and a urostomy bag. It became apparent throughout his stay that he had severe alcohol dependency. He claimed to have indefinite leave to remain but we were unable to find evidence of this. He was originally in supported accommodation but was evicted due to a number of reasons. He had approached the council who did not accept his homeless application as they could not confirm his status in the UK. Boguslaw, our caseworker brought a solicitor on board and requested the council carry out a care act assessment. This was unfortunately rejected as there was a dispute around his eligibility and status. Mohammad ended up in hospital as his physical health deteriorated. While he was in hospital another care act assessment was requested and this time the referral was accepted. Mohammad was placed in a hostel. He currently has a social worker who is working on determining his status.
Conclusions • We’d like to be completely open access and welcome everyone who needs us • Demand is too high • Engagement is becoming a requirement of our services • This means more people receive our help • We sometimes worry that people may slip through the net