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By Steven Platts, Glass Door Chief Operating Officer

24 May 2016

It’s exactly one year since we changed our name, and the first year as “Glass Door” has been the most eventful and productive in the charity’s history.

Thanks to the ongoing support of churches across London and the small army of volunteers that come to cook, serve and be with our guests, we were able to run two shelter circuits for the whole of winter. The shelters continue to be easily the largest in London and one of the last remaining truly open access services out there for all the vulnerable men and women who need us.

Thanks to the enduring partnership with Chelsea & Fulham Methodist Churches, our guests have a safe place to go during the day for laundry, showers and to eat one of the best lunches on King’s Road.

Every guest who walks through our doors has a different story. They come to us with very little, often nothing more than the clothes on their back. Once they are rested and fed, they can begin working with our caseworkers.

Caseworkers success 

Last year, the team supported more guests into housing than ever before—guests like Dyan, Donato & Mohammad who found work and then moved into rented rooms with our help. And others like Joel, Alex and Marta, who were taken on by local councils after we advocated on their behalf. Or David, a guest with a history of alcoholism, who is now in a detox centre and hopes to become an outreach worker and help others in the same way he’s been helped.

In total over the past 12 months, the small but highly effective casework team helped 122 people into stable accommodation – that’s 1 person every 3 days.

The homeless crisis continues

Sadly though, the need is not diminishing and for every guest whose life is turned around it seems there are half a dozen more looking for help. We don’t expect this need to change in the near future as the housing crisis worsens, the holes in the welfare safety net get bigger and work becomes ever more precarious. The official figures for rough sleeping in London aren’t out just yet for the past year, but the consensus is that it will be bleak and we are expecting demand on all our services to rise again.

Glass Door expands in coming year

So, what’s our response going to be? I am pleased to say more of the same, with even more on top. The shelter season will kick off this year on November 7, and plans are coming along nicely to increase our capacity next winter to 90 spaces a night by adding a new circuit of churches based in Wandsworth, which is one of just three London boroughs not to have a night shelter at the moment.

This move will increase the overall capacity of London’s winter shelters to over 400 bed spaces a night, putting churches and the hundreds of Glass Door volunteers very much at the forefront of the fight to end rough sleeping.

Alongside our shelter expansion, new long term funding has allowed us to expand the casework team to four people all year round with additional staff joining us in winter to support all the shelter guests. I am sure the caseworkers will thank me for publicly announcing that we hope to improve on the one-in-every-three-days housing rate.

The challenges that rain down on the hundreds of people who come to us during times of crisis aren’t going away. Glass Door doesn’t have the solution to this complex situation but, thanks to all our supporters, partners, dedicated staff and volunteers, we continue to grow and offer an ever-more effective response to the people who need us most as they aim to turn their lives around.


Adapted from Steven's talk at the 2016 End-of-Season party for volunteers. Photos from the event posted on Facebook.