A London night shelter has this year hosted its oldest rough sleeper in 20 years and a woman who was eight-and-a-half months pregnant as it warned demand for its service is on the rise.
Glass Door Homeless Charity runs a network of 34 shelters across west London, including seven that were added in 2019 to keep up with the high numbers of people who registered with them in 2018.
Just days before Christmas and seven weeks into its winter season, the charity had 441 guests access their service and 901 people had requested to join the waiting list.
Chief Operating Officer Lucy Abraham told the Standard that charity has seen an increasing number of people with mental health issues and disabilities access their service, as well four pregnant women so far this year.
Referring to the total number of people accessing their services, she added: It is slightly more than last year but we do have a fifth night shelter circuit set up, which we opened this season because of the huge demand last year and the long waiting list.
Glass Door shelters operate out of a series of churches known as circuits. Seven in an area are linked together so that each night of the week, a different church is open to host.
Guests are offered a sleeping bag, mat and a three course meal. The following day, they are able to access other day time services linked to Glass Door where they can shower, grab lunch and access case workers.
Ms Abraham said pregnant women had been forced to use the shelters despite it being totally inappropriate just to have a roof over their heads.
It doesn’t bare thinking about. In the first week of the shelters opening (this year), I was visiting one of our vendors on the newer circuit and there was a woman there who was eight-and-a-half months pregnant, she said.
One of those success stories has been a man named James who slept in the emergency shelters for two months.
James said homelessness crept up on him after he had an accident falling down some stairs and didn’t realise he had broken his neck and back.
The accident caused me to be in and out of work … you’re finances go up and down and then not able to pay the bills and then that’s where I landed , eventually, on the streets, he said.
He said the first important thing Glass Door offered him was a sleeping bag, which he described as like a room. And, they’re help eventually led him to get his own keys to an apartment.