KCSC’s Spotlight articles are produced regularly, each focussing on a different organisation working wholly or primarily within the borough. The articles are included in our e-bulletin and on our website. If you would like KCSC to feature your organisation in a Spotlight article please email email@example.com.
1. What is your organisation’s name?
Glass Door Homeless Charity and our website is www.glassdoor.org.uk
2. Can you describe what you usually do?
Glass Door is committed to supporting people get—and stay—off the street. We do this by coordinating London’s largest emergency winter shelter network and by providing a year-round advice service to help people move beyond homelessness. Since 1999, thousands of men and women have found safe shelter and the support needed to leave homelessness behind, thanks to the dedication of thousands of volunteers and partnerships formed with churches and drop-in centres. Our night shelters save lives and our support services help change lives.
3. Can you tell us how you’ve had to change your normal services/activities?
It was very early on that we realised people facing homelessness had nowhere to safely self-isolate. We tried to make our shelters as safe as possible for all who were there while they were open, and also advocating for our guests to receive private spaces to self-isolate safely.
Thanks to our close collaboration between homeless charities, local authorities and the government in late March, we supported all 123 of our shelter guests to move into private hotel rooms so that they could safely self-isolate. We have supported an additional 70 individuals to access safe accommodation since the crisis began, some of whom were made newly homeless due to coronavirus
For the guests placed in hotels, we are creating individualised move-on plans. For some, this means support to access benefits. But many do not have access to state support and our staff members are exploring all available options.
Our CEO Lucy Abraham has said, “We are doing all we can to find permanent routes out of homelessness for all those we support”.
4. Tell us of a current achievement or something you’re particularly proud of, at the moment?
Despite the shelter season being cut short by two weeks due to the coronavirus pandemic, more people turned to Glass Door and stayed in the shelters this winter than ever before.
Six new partners joined the shelter network across the four boroughs where we operate, allowing the charity to incorporate a new shelter circuit. Between early November 2019 and late March 2020, 829 different guests found shelter within 34 venues, with five venues hosting shelters on any given night of the week.
The night shelters may only be able to offer a space on the floor of a church hall, but our guests told us what a difference it makes in our annual anonymous feedback survey.
After staying with Glass Door, 76% said that they feel more optimistic about the future. Guests also indicated they felt more confident, connected, rested and supported than when they arrived, with an improvement in both their mental and physical health.
To find out more about the impact our shelters have had this season: https://www.glassdoor.org.uk/news/sheltergrowth2020.
5. KCSC provides a lot of support and advice to organisations locally but do you have any lessons learned you would like to share with other organisations?
One lesson we have learned is the importance of celebrating successes. Being in the homeless sector means there are a lot of very difficult stories, a lot of pain and a lot of injustice. When we want to improve things for people who are suffering, we can all be tempted to dwell only on what is going wrong. It is vitally important to share and celebrate all successes – our successes as a team, the successes of the people we support and who move on from homelessness, and our success as a society in furthering the mission of ending homelessness for good. Even when we point out what is not working and what we want to change, we have learnt that the best way to do this is to offer potential solutions too, so that our friends and supporters know that there is reason to hope.
6. Do you have a particular case study and quotes from the the current lockdown period?
Lisa* is a British citizen in her 30s with dual nationality. With a chronic illness to contend with and no living relatives in the UK, she turned to the Glass Door shelters in Wandsworth this March. She reflects on her experience. “As a girl on my own, being homeless is very scary. You try to find shelter somewhere safe and well-lit. But the cold is unbearable on a park bench or draughty train station”.
Lisa was born in the UK but moved to a different European country* with her mother after her parents divorced. “With my parents in different countries, I never had a stable home. I never felt welcome or wanted anywhere as a child.”
“I returned to the UK to go to university. I quickly got my first job, but a few weeks later, I was diagnosed with a chronic illness. It’s hard to get and keep a job when you are in hospital every few months. I’ve had a lot of false starts and moved around a lot trying to find a steady job and a place where I ‘fit in’. "
“It has been my own personal fight not to become a drug addict or an alcoholic. People tend to think that everyone who is homeless has these problems. I might have had nowhere to sleep but I feel better with myself because I have never fallen into those traps...I don’t feel like I should be homeless. I just feel like me."
While Lisa found herself homeless abroad, she received help from the British Foreign Office to get back to London. But she had nowhere to stay on her return. Then she heard about Glass Door. “Glass Door was a real help. I got dinner and somewhere safe and warm to sleep every night while I was there...The volunteers are amazing. I built up such a positive rapport with many of them. They took nights out of their week to be with people like me, a complete outsider. Just to have that contact with someone who is living a normal life is so important. It has given me a sense of normality. It really helped me to cope with my situation...The selflessness and altruism of the volunteers is so uplifting. "
Lisa is now self-isolating in a hotel. She is one of over 3,000 people being sheltered in this way in London.
“The hotel is comfortable, and I have been spending time doing things that make me feel normal like reading and drawing. Everyone who is taking care of me is friendly. I haven’t had much contact with the other people staying here as we are all respecting the social distancing rules.” Glass Door supported Lisa into the emergency hotel scheme in coordination with the Greater London Authority and other charities. It is guaranteed to run until mid-June. After that, her future is uncertain.
“When you live on the streets, you’re not able to shower everyday or wash your hands regularly and you’re in constant contact with other people. It is a health risk, and with an underlying health condition, we are a vulnerable group...The Covid-19 crisis has shown that there are solutions to homelessness, if only short-term. We need to make social changes so that the good works that charities do are sustainable. It can happen. "
"I mainly just want to say “thank you”. The staff and volunteers at Glass Door have given me faith in humanity."
*Lisa’s name has been changed. As Lisa wants to remain anonymous, she doesn't want to share publicly the name of the country where she grew up.
To provide support to someone like Lisa and make a long-term difference in the life of someone affected by homelessness, consider supporting our Covid-19 Emergency Appeal.