This World Homelessness Day (October 10) coincides with the first anniversary of the Lewisham Night Shelter opening year-round.
New figures show that the 999 Club’s Deptford-based shelter provided emergency respite from the streets for 185 men and women who were homeless during the nine months from September 2018 until May 2019.
This was possible through amazing volunteers, who gave up 1,160 hours of their own time to work with the charity, and 6,680 staff hours over the same period.
This comes at a time when the latest official records show more homeless people than ever are dying. An estimated 726 homeless people in England and Wales were registered as having died in 2018 – up 22 percent on the previous year, and the highest ever rise since reporting began in 2013, according to the Office for National Statistics last week.
One fifth of all deaths of homeless people were in London, with five people in the borough of Lewisham reported to have died, and two more estimated to have died during 2018, the ONS said.
Through the 999 Club’s Night Shelter and wraparound services at its Gateway drop-in day centre, the charity empowers people who are homeless and vulnerably housed to take the first steps off the street and to rebuild their lives.
Every person admitted to the Night Shelter is holistically supported to find sustainable, more permanent accommodation through a named case manager who works with them around housing, benefits and employability to enable them to learn new skills and find work.
A GP, general nurse and a mental health nurse all visit weekly to provide healthcare and in addition to meals, laundry and shower facilities, people can use computers for job searches, benefit claims and to contact family and friends.
Through its Gateway Centre and Night Shelter, the 999 Club works with nearly 1,000 homeless or vulnerably housed people a year.
“Friendly and approachable staff”
Dean stayed in the Night Shelter for three months this summer, after being made homeless following a relationship breakdown. He is now living in Lewisham borough and has secured a management role at a local retail and leisure complex.
Dean said: “I’m on Cloud Nine. I got my accommodation and job within three or four days of each other. I always knew I had all the pieces of the jigsaw, but it was working out how they fit together.
“The biggest thing for me was how friendly and approachable staff [at 999 Club] were. They didn’t judge me – I could talk to them and they offered me support and advice. I needed that leg up, to get back on the ladder. I used the 999 Club as a stepping stone to get back to normality.”
Maxine has volunteered at the Night Shelter every Saturday evening since June this year.
She said: “It’s more as if I am coming to see family. Straight away, I cared about all the people who come here. I want to keep up on their progress and have a genuine interest in their welfare. I always look forward to coming in and seeing them, and I think that’s reciprocated.”
How the Night Shelter can help
If you know someone who is homeless (sleeping rough or sofa surfing) the Night Shelter is one of several options for support in SE London. People can be referred through one of our partner agencies including Lewisham Council, Bench Outreach, Deptford Reach or London Street Rescue.
Or they can self-refer by coming to the Gateway drop-in day centre. This is open every weekday morning from 9am until 12 noon (2pm on Mondays) and they can have an initial assessment to find out if they are eligible for a Night Shelter place.
The Night Shelter has capacity for 25 people, accepted initially for 28 days. To access it, you should:
- Be 18 years old +
- Have a Lewisham connection – have lived in the borough for six of the past 12 months, or three of the last five years; and
- Be in receipt of, or eligible for, benefits.
What can you do to help a homeless person?
There are a number of other ways you can help someone who is homeless.
If you know someone who is sleeping rough, Streetlink is the best initial point of contact. People who are sleeping rough can refer themselves which gives the fastest response, or you can do it for them. Give as much identifying information as possible, and a specific location for where they will be in the evenings, to help an outreach worker to find them.
People can also attend the Single Homeless Intervention and Prevention (SHIP) unit at Lewisham Council’s Laurence House in Catford, where they can be advised on the best support for their needs.