Glass Door Homeless Charity opened the doors of its emergency winter shelters three weeks ago to accommodate 170 guests across London each night. It has already sheltered several vulnerable guests, including three pregnant women, several people with significant health conditions and one elderly man.
The services offered are free and open to all in need. It costs £24 a night for Glass Door to offer dinner, a bed for the night, breakfast and a warm welcome. The charity remains open throughout the coldest 22 weeks of the year, even on Christmas eve and Christmas day.
A former guest of Glass Door, James Swan, is the face of Glass Door’s campaign to open doors for others this Christmas. “I can think of no greater gift than to give someone else the warm welcome and support that I was given.” James says.
James slept rough at Christmas after a serious of incidents – including a broken neck, debt and relationship breakdown – left him homeless.
“The streets were so quiet on Christmas Day and nothing was open,” James recalls. “The hunger, the cold and the wet were bad, but the loneliness and isolation at Christmas was overwhelming.
“I stayed in the night shelters for two months while a Glass Door caseworker helped me find a route out of homelessness. Glass Door’s Employability Coordinator, Jay, helped me sort out my CV and apply for jobs. Another cold night and I could have been done for. But Glass Door opened doors to me when I had almost lost all hope.
“I have lived in an independent flat for two years and seven months now and I have a job where I work night shifts. I have spent the last two Christmases in my own home. Now Christmas is totally different. It feels festive, and I have managed to get back in touch with my family so I can celebrate it with them.”
Several people with significant health conditions are resorting to Glass Door emergency shelters – comprising of a sleeping mat and sleeping bag on the floor of a church – due to a lack of other options.
Caseworkers have successfully secured housing for someone who was staying in the emergency winter night shelters with a long-term health condition. He stayed in the Glass Door night shelters for two nights before caseworkers worked to make links with his Local Authority and secure temporary accommodation. Another guest is currently undergoing chemotherapy treatment.
In Glass Door’s 20-year history, the oldest guest on record to stay in its shelters was 83 years old. Within three weeks of the shelters opening this winter, Glass Door has sheltered an elderly man who now shares the unfortunate distinction as Glass Door’s oldest guest on record.
“It is shocking to see how many vulnerable people are turning to us for shelter this year,” says Lucy Abraham, Chief Operating Officer. “The rise in the number of guests with health conditions and who are pregnant compared to last year suggests a worrying trend. We have an open-doors policy, which means we don’t discriminate between guests. It’s first come, first-served. Many of our guests tell us they have nowhere else to turn. That’s why our Christmas Appeal this year is all about helping to open a door to a new life away from the streets. We don’t believe that anyone should face a closed door at Christmas time.”