Volunteering in London : Spires and Shelter from the Storm


It’s no secret that there is a huge homelessness problem in the UK. I have blogged about it before but hadn’t had time to do much about it myself until recently.
46798bc0-321d-45a7-96b1-be2161f52c60                                                 SFTS
A couple of months ago, when I was between jobs, I volunteered with a homeless charity called ‘Shelter from the Storm‘. Unfortunately, it was over an hour away from where I live and the only shifts they needed volunteers for were over night. I got home at 8am and went to straight to bed! Once I started working again, I knew I couldn’t commit to volunteering there but started looking for somewhere closer to home. (if you want to get involved please visit their website, it’s hyperlinked above).
My experience there was a real eye opener. The shelter has two dorms, one male and one female, a kitchen, a lounge area and 2 or 3 showers. Residents must arrive by 6pm (unless they are working in which case they just need to let volunteers know what time they will be back so they can be accounted for). They are served dinner by a group of volunteers and have a few hours to relax, take a shower and watch TV. Lights go out at 10. It’s pretty strict as many people need to get up early to go to work and it would be unfair to them if the hostel was noisy all night. In the morning, everyone must be out by 8am. They get up, have coffee/tea and breakfast and off they go for the day. SFTS also has a counsellor who visits a few nights a week. In order to keep the hostel safe and comfortable for everyone, volunteers included, no-one is allowed in if they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
I was shocked at just how many of the people staying there had jobs. It’s just devastating to think that someone can work 8 or even 10 hours a day and still not make enough money to have their own bed to sleep in. It is one of the most basic human rights, the right to have somewhere safe to sleep, and it never fails to break my heart when I think of how many people in the 4th richest country in the world don’t even have that.
While it was a fairly quiet night, here was one minor incident that I had to deal with that got my heart racing for a minute! While some of the other volunteers were sleeping, I could hear an argument breaking out in the men’s bedroom at around 1am. I was terrified for a minute but I knew that if I didn’t do something, everyone would be awake!  I took a deep breath and went to investigate. It turned out that one of the men was getting pissed off that another guy was snoring loudly. We have all heard about married couples who have terrible problems when one of them is a snorer – imagine the toll it would take on you if you shared a room with 20 other people every night and there was snoring coming from every corner!  It was quickly sorted out but it really stuck out in my head. Even with amazing shelters like SFTS providing a safe place, meals and support, nothing quite beats the comfort of your own room and the quality of sleep for the people there really can’t be great. I felt extremely grateful for my bed that night and a twinge of guilt for how often I take it for granted.
Fast forward to a few months later. I am settled and enjoying my new job and as the weather has (prematurely) started to cool down, I was drawn towards homelessness again and felt in a better position to do something about it this time. I spotted a Tweet by Spires, a charity who help people who are homeless in Streatham. Its a 20 min walk from my house and they were looking for help with fundraising. Perfect!
Spires is a place where people who are homeless, particularly those sleeping rough,  can go to have a shower and a meal and to get the help they need. Every person is given a key worker who works with them on whatever their problems are. Some people will need help with drug and alcohol addiction, some with domestic abuse or sex work, some just need a temporary solution while they get back on their feet and some are looking for training or qualifications which will enable them to get a better job. All of them want a better life for themselves.
From their website:
Spires provides support to anyone who is in a state of crisis.  Many of our clients have multiple and complex needs, ranging from homelessness and insecure accommodation, unemployment, poor mental and physical health, problems with addiction and substance abuse, domestic abuse, as well as help and support for sex-working women, many of whom have entrenched addictions and chaotic lifestyles.

Spires’ services are offered 5 days per week (Monday to Friday) throughout the year to those who access our centre or meet our workers when we are running outreach sessions. Along with the basic provision of food, clothing, showers and healthcare, we also provide for our client’s longer terms needs by offering them appropriate support, advice and referral from our team of fully trained support workers.

A full assessment of need will be conducted with each new client at Spires to ascertain who can best help an individual to improve their circumstances.

My role at Spires, is to help with fundraising. I will be helping the with research and bid writing, donor acquisition and anything else they need help with. There are a few events coming up in the next few months so expect to be hearing a lot about that from me! I’m really excited to be volunteering and this is a cause that’s really important to me.

For help or advice on how you can get involved with volunteering, please e-mail me or comment below!

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