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In central London, on November 15 2021, Glass Door opened a single-accommodation project with 56 rooms and a dedicated floor just for women. For 25 weeks, the hostel welcomed those who have nowhere to call home during the hard months of winter. On Monday 9th May, the hostel closed its doors after supporting 103 guests, who received expert support by trained project workers and caseworkers to help find stability and routes out of homelessness.  

 A safe and inclusive accommodation  

Our women

The hostel project allowed people from all backgrounds and varying levels of need to have access to a safe room, warm meals and on-site advice and casework. In total, 37 nationalities were represented at the hostel.   

To make sure our accommodation services were safe and welcoming for all, we developed a framework for gender-informed service design and delivery. Women staying in our hostel benefited from a women-only floor, personal panic alarms, a choice of their caseworker’s gender, and could take part in our weekly Women’s Group (which is also open to non-residential guests).  

At the Women’s Group,  attendees can speak to female caseworkers, share hot meals and drinks, access a clothing bank, toiletries, showers, and participate in activities and relax, in a safe, female-only space.  

There was really good feedback on the female only floor. The guests bonded and a really nice atmosphere of joy and hope developed.

- Ioanna, who has been working at the hostel for two consecutive seasons. 

Moreover, to ensure the hostel was a safe place for LGBTQ+ guests, measures were put in place like making menstrual and sexual health products available to all guests, to reduce stigma or embarrassment for trans guests.  

At the hostel, health services were also integrated, including a dedicated clinic room. There they were able to meet dentists, podiatrists, receive their covid and flu vaccinations, and have appointments with a mental health practitioner. They also had access to substance misuse services onsite.   

Inspiring change through activities 

After months of covid-19 restrictions, communal meals and activities were able to be launched safely in the hostel. In response to feedback from the Lived Experience Group we introduced workshops like trauma-informed yoga, arts and social activities run by workers and volunteers, to improve guests’ wellbeing. 

“It really helped people to gather and socialise, and the activities participated in promoting people’s confidence and inspire some positive change,” said Adam, deputy manager of the hostel.  

Eddie, a worker at the hostel, ran a weekly movie night, where guests would gather around a film that they chose with popcorn, and unwind. One guest told Eddie: “it’s something I really look forward every week.”  

Quddous, a member of the Lived Experience Group of Glass Door, told us that sharing his story through creativity and spoken word had helped him during sessions about what could make a difference for guests in their journeys. Together with Oona, Service Development Officer of Glass Door, they organised a successful Spoken Word night in the common space of the hostel, bringing guests together to share their stories, hopes and fears in a safe and hopeful environment.  

It really helps me to help lift other people with the same experience as me. 

On-site casework – building paths out of homelessness 

On top of project workers present at the hostel every day, caseworkers are also present on-site five days a week with specialised workers to accompany guests with migration issues.  

In total, they were able to see 100% of individuals who stayed more than 15 nights at the hostel. Thanks to the hard work, dedication, and support of every Glass Door worker on-site, 41 individuals moved into more sustainable accommodation and two reconnected to their home countries

Our hostel staff helped change lives:  

  • Three people opened a bank account  
  • Thirteen accessed benefits  
  • Six guests found employment
  • Ten people were helped to obtain or regain their ID 
  • Eight migration issues assisted, including filing for EUSS 

Overall, it’s brilliant, Glass Door staff and overall, it’s brilliant. [...] I appreciate what Glass Door has done for me. So much. Glass Door has done a lot.

- A guest

However, this year, more than 55% of the guests we welcomed in the hostel had little or no recourse to public funds – so it has been a difficult journey for many.  

Frances is a Migrant Project Caseworker. Present at the hostel up to two days a week, she has been helping guests through many different and challenging situations, like guests who are asylum seekers, had long residency cases, guests who have British children, EU citizens, and modern slavery victims, many of them facing multiple disadvantages.  

In every session, she investigates her guest’s situation and helps gather evidence in order for them to get legal advice for a housing solution and resolve their migration issues. But before anything else, she has to build trust and understand what individuals have been through to know how best to assist them.  

In many cases, it is difficult to obtain results, and it often depends on third party organisations, bringing frustration to both guests and workers.  

However, Adam testifies: “although it’s a frustration, we have to remember that we are supplying the basic needs, a place of safety and refuge, where they can be comfortable and accepted for who they are”.  He adds: “in that period, then comes hope. Guests can get the mental space to focus on their status, benefits and accommodation.” 

Adam, Deputy Manager of the hostel

Vincent’s story 

However, for most guests staying at the hostel the journey has been successful and gives hope for the others. Vincent** is an Eastern European national in his 30s who has been in the UK for almost 10 years. He is a victim of modern slavery and human trafficking and had stayed in various places around the country, depending on where he was working, before becoming homeless and spending periods of time rough sleeping. Vincent was offered a space in the Glass Door hostel this winter and is being supported by our Migrant Project Caseworker, Frances, who has helped him to prepare and submit a late EUSS application, replace his lost ID and to liaise with other support providers.  

When he first entered the hostel, Vincent was suffering from depression due to the trauma of being held by people traffickers and was very quiet. He avoided opening up about everything that had happened to him, believing that his case was hopeless. However, by building trust step by step, Frances has supported him to access health services. Vincent is currently awaiting the outcome of his EUSS application and is in the process of moving to a safe house, a week after the hostel closed.  Sadly, however, as with many others in similar situations with no recourse to public funds, he is likely to face further challenges to access benefits. Glass Door will always be there to offer guidance and advice for as long as he needs. 

**name changed to protect anonymity

Glass Door thanks everyone who participated in making this hostel season possible: partners, workers, volunteers and our generous donors.   

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