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Meet a volunteer: Matt

Matt is coming up to his one year anniversary as an SFTS volunteer. He read about us last Xmas and just fancied doing something to help. He was amazed to find a charity that was almost completely run by volunteers and felt his contribution would make more sense and impact. The more he found out about the shelter, the more impressed he was with its transparency; all the donations were going directly into supporting the guests.   

Matt feels that homelessness is misunderstood and people have quite wrong perceptions about the homeless: often they’re no different from you or me but have just suffered a bit of bad luck which then becomes a downward spiral of despair.

He really looks forward to his Tuesday shift, his day job is in the world of expensive UK property and volunteering not only puts his work into perspective, it puts everything into perspective and gives him a window into what’s important in life.

Oh, and he likes the fact that we call them guests, he thinks that sums SFTS up.


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With thanks to Olivia Emes from TellyJuice for creating this



Meet a volunteer: Rosie

I have been volunteering at shelter from the storm for nearly four years. As an animator, I began volunteering as a productive break from the desk and that old cliché of feeling like commercial work was bit soulless and wanting to help people!
From my first shift my preconceptions of homeless people were shattered. I’ve met guests from all kinds of backgrounds, with very different reasons for needing help. There is an assumption that all homeless people are addicts or alcoholics, removed from society, the reality is very different.
Working at the shelter never feels like a chore, I love being there, it’s such a warm, positive, place. As it’s small and independent the approach is always very personal and I’ve enjoyed working closely with guests to help them move on. It’s great when we successfully support someone into work and/or their own accommodation. 
My time at the shelter has also had a really positive influence on my life. I’ve recently worked on a series of portrait projects with some of the guests, resulting in an exhibition (find out more here) to challenge people ideas on homelessness. The response that this work has received so far has given the push to take my amateur photography further and I am about to embark on an MA course and am taking on more photography work.

Fyfe Dangerfield to open Shelter from the Storm photography exhibition: 28 November

Shelter from the Storm, together with Mother, present a night of great music on 28 November to launch a unique photography show exploring the reach of homelessness in London.

Fyfe Dangerfield, talented singer-songwriter and lead singer of the Guillemots, will be playing an intimate music set in aid of Shelter from the Storm from 6.30pm to 10.00pm on 298 November at Downstairs at Mother (tickets available here).

This will mark the official opening of a unique photography exhibition, which features a series of portrait photographs of residents at Shelter from the Storm, a night shelter in North London. The photographs will shock many viewers, as they are the antithesis of the gritty images of rough sleepers with which we are bombarded in the run up to Christmas. They show a diverse group of people, many of them young, bright and beautiful, exploring the reach of the problem in the capital. Many of them have jobs, or are desperately seeking work, and simply cannot afford the capitals rising rent prices. 

The photographs are the work of local photographer, Rosie Holtom, who has volunteered at Shelter from the Storm for four years. "Working at the shelter completely shattered my preconceptions of homelessness. I have met some fascinating people from all kinds of backgrounds, with incredible life stories. I wanted to take simple portraits that showed these proud, brave people for what they are without focussing on their homelessness." 

Tickets for the opening event at Downstairs at Mother, 10 Redchurch Street, London, E2 7DD are available for £20 online here - all money raised will go to the shelter. The photography exhibition will run from 24 November to 3 December 2013




Guest stories: John

John is a Cold War veteran.  He served with the British army in divided  Berlin in the early 1970s, which he still remembers as a great experience for a young man of 18.  He was born in Guyana and came to Britain when his mother sent for him, his brother and his two sisters when he was just 12.  “I didn’t know whether it would be a good move”, he says, “but it definitely broadened my horizon.”  John also did a tour of Northern Ireland, where he remembers being “slagged off as a black man.” He says he joined the forces as a way of staying out of trouble, having fallen in with what he describes as “some bad boys”. “Otherwise”, he reflects “I would have been in and out of prison”.  

He’s proud of all the jobs he had after leaving the army: “I worked on the buses, at the Ford motor company in Dagenham, helped build fire extinguishers and prams”.  Just over 20 years ago, however, John fell on hard times after he was caught drink driving. He lost his job, got mixed up in drugs, was evicted from his home and ended up having to stay with friends.  “You can only do that for so long”, he says, which finally led to him being referred to SFTS.  John has only been at the Shelter for a short while. He describes it as “a good place, with friendly people”, and he appreciates the food that’s served up.  One thing he finds hard, however, is having to spend the day outside, as the Shelter only opens for the night.

John hopes to find some shared accommodation soon, then a place of his own.  Once he gets back on his feet, he would love to visit Guyana again.  He was last there in 1990 and, he muses, much will have changed.