The Arsenal Foundation has helped Shelter From The Storm give homeless people a safe space to sleep in. General manager Matt Conlon tells us how…
“I first got involved with Shelter from the Storm as a volunteer in 2012. I can remember when I first walked in there was an amazing vibe to the place – not what you’d expect a homeless shelter to be like at all – and I just wanted to be involved. From there I was hooked. I volunteered several times a week, gaining some experience before being able to get a job in the sector. Then in 2015 I began working for the shelter, and I’ve been here ever since.
“I’m the general manager, but I get stuck into a bit of everything, from cleaning up each day to writing funding applications, as well as helping with casework, supporting our amazing team of volunteers and overseeing our casework team.
“We moved into our new premises in Islington in July 2019. We were able to renovate an old commercial space into a custom-built homeless shelter with the needs of our guests at the heart of the design. Our dorms were open plan (two male dorms and one female), but we wanted to redesign them to create as much privacy and security for our guests as possible. Initially we didn’t have the funding to do this, but with help from The Arsenal Foundation we have been able to.
“The sleeping pods provide a reassuring sense of security and a more permanent solution for our dormitories. Each bed space is accessible through an entrance hatch. In each pod there’s a bed and a small amount of space to leave some belongings as well as a USB charging point and a reading light. Each guest also has their own lockable wardrobe. The entrance to each bed has a roller blind, allowing each guest to create a fully enclosed space which is cosy and private.
“Shelter from the Storm cares for and supports 36 homeless people every night, and each year we support around 250 people. The pandemic was a hugely difficult time for people who found themselves homeless. With so many services closed it was really hard for people to access the support they needed. But we are still seeing a huge increase in demand. Every week we receive around 50 referrals from the local area for people in need of emergency accommodation.
“I don’t know if I have a ‘proudest moment’ exactly, but I always enjoy seeing the transformation that takes place in people during their time with us. Often, the day they arrive here is one of the lowest points in their lives. But we support people to rebuild their lives. They have somewhere safe to sleep, a dedicated caseworker, showers, laundry, English lessons and even counselling – all for free. So when someone moves out of the shelter, into their own accommodation, they can seem a different person.
“Traditionally, football clubs have always been at the heart of their community, and it’s really important that they maintain this connection. With no government funding, we rely entirely on donations to continue the work that we do, so we’re extremely grateful to have been supported by The Arsenal Foundation to improve the services that we offer to homeless people in London, every night of the year.”
For more info visit sfts.org.uk
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