Published 1 June 2018

shelter | casework | guest feedbackvolunteer update 

More individuals find shelter

Glass Door shelters made room for 643 individuals this winter across the four London boroughs over the course of 22 weeks. The number of guests this year grew by 50% from last year. 

The steep rise in the number of guests accessing the Glass Door shelters is largely due to three factors:

  • expansion into Richmond with seven new churches joining,
  • capacity in Wandsworth increasing from 20 to 35 guests a night,
  • The run of freezing weather. 

Two prolonged periods of snow and below zero temperatures meant that shelters in the more established circuits in Kensington & Chelsea and Hammersmith & Fulham opened their doors to as many people as they could.

Guests and volunteers chat at a communal table at St Elizabeth of Portugal church, part of the newly opened Glass Door circuit in Richmond.

Guests and volunteers chat at a communal table at St Elizabeth of Portugal Church, part of the newly opened Glass Door circuit in Richmond.

Glass Door planned for the expansion in Richmond and Wandsworth, but the bout of freezing weather took everyone by surprise, says Geoff Ball, shelter operations manager at Glass Door.

Staff at our partner churches and their volunteers have done an impressive job stepping up to the surge in demand this past winter. We couldn't have sheltered and fed as many individuals as we did without the commitment of 29 churches hosting and over a 1,350 volunteers.

Guests ranged in age from 18 to 83, and 109 (17%) of these guests were women.

Behind each figure and statistic are hundreds of individuals we call our guests, each with a unique story. This year, Glass Door received a spike in the number of referrals made directly from hospitals on behalf of patients who would otherwise be discharged back onto the street. One guest was recovering from a broken neck. Another guest had sickle cell disease. Two guests were blind.

Many guests work insecure jobs and are unable to keep a stable foothold into London's rental market. One guest, for example, was a teaching assistant at a London school and has a biology degree. He and his wife, who has a degree in fine art, slept at the shelters night after night because, he explained, the teaching job "just doesn't pay enough."

Casework Support

Glass Door's caseworkers work year-round with guests to give them the support they need to find routes out of homelessness. Our statistics still have to be finalised so we expect numbers to grow, but we know our casework team have advised more than 1,194 individuals this past year, helping at least 180 guests find housing and 79 find jobs.  

2017-2018 casework stat infographic

The casework team -- Neil, Boguslaw, Anna, Lewis, Jay, Sarah, Aga and Karolina -- have between them not only supported a record number of guests off the streets, they've also helped guests access healthcare, open bank accounts, apply for lost ID, and return to their country of origin, when appropriate.

The oldest guest in our shelters (83) had a hard time navigating the walk between shelters in the circuit. Caseworkers convinced a local council to temporarily house him while a legal aid team fought to provide something more permanent.

caseworker Lewis speaks with female guest of the shelters

A guest speaks with caseworker Lewis in a night shelter.

Guest Feedback

The night shelters may only be able to offer space on the floor of a church hall, but our homeless guests tell us how much it meant.

We're particularly encouraged that guests felt more optimistic, more connected to other people, and more confident than when they arrived. We collect this feedback anonymously twice a year -- in the middle and at the end of shelter season. 

The survey also provides space to write in comments. The feedback included many expressions of thanks. Says a shelter guest in his thirties: 

Glass Door staff are a credit to humanity. I genuinely feel my caseworker actually cares about me.

Says another shelter guest in his sixties:

I don't feel alone anymore.

Volunteer Update

A record number of volunteers -- 1,350 -- registered with Glass Door this past year. Volunteers cooked and served over 22,165 dinners this winter. Others helped in a range of roles, including serving breakfast, entering data, conducting research on flats and jobs, helping during women's group, providing haircuts and more.

We're particularly proud of the fact that their feedback on the experience has been overwhelmingly positive. 

98% of the 166 volunteers who provided feedback said they would recommend Glass Door as a place to volunteer or support and 93% said they were either "extremely" or "very" satisfied with their volunteer experience. Said one: 

I think it’s important work, especially given all the privilege so many have in West London. I enjoy doing it and I genuinely believe that the fantastic work Glass Door do is making a difference to people's lives.

Volunteers reported they had spent eight hours a month on average helping out in a shelter or day centre. 

When asked why they chose to volunteer with Glass Door, the answers were thoughtful but hard to summarise. Answers highlight a desire to help homeless people and to give back to the community. One said: 

It’s such a small thing to do and yet can potentially have a really big impact. I like the way it’s organised, at grassroot level, and that it’s people helping people.

volunteers prepare dinner

Volunteer teams prepare meals every night during the coldest 22 weeks of the year.

Another 500 individuals registered to take part in a fundraising event, many joining the annual Sleep Out in the Square, while other ran races, hiked trails and more. These fundraising volunteers have raised vital funds for our services, allowing us to grow and bring more individuals in off the street. 

While we know that volunteers give their time and talent without expectation of being rewarded, Glass Door invites volunteers to a Thank You reception in April. This year, Jumeirah Carlton Towers generously stepped forward to offer the complimentary use of their ballroom for the event. On the night, chair of trustees Rev Brian Leathard said:

Whether you are a long-time Glass Door volunteer and supporter or if you got involved fairly recently, and regardless of how many hours you give, it’s important for you to know that what you do makes a difference. Please know that your generosity is recognised, appreciated, and valued. We thank you and look forward to continuing to work with you in the future.

volunteers in Richmond serve meal 


To give someone affected by homelessness the chance to find shelter and support, register to join Sleep Out in the Square 2018.

Read about our future plans in "Looking ahead" by interim COO Ralph Griffin.