Anthony doesn't like to remember how he came to be homeless, the memories are too painful. Besides, it is all behind him now, in his past. For the last year he has been working as an administrator for a film production company, a role he got through the shelter.
Now he comes back each Monday to work as a volunteer, using his own experience to help people stuck in similar situations. "The people at the shelter taught me never to give up on myself," he says. "It took the pressure off me, gave me the space and time to get myself together." He says that's a rare luxury. Most shelters in London make people move on after a fixed amount of time. "The shelter gave me the opportunity to help myself. If it wasn't for that place, I could be dead now."
She began by studying English, initially planning to return home. However, she stayed on, working in pubs and cafés, cleaning and looking after children. “I’ve always liked London”, she says: “I used to go out a lot, to plays and concerts.” But as the economic climate worsened, work dried up. She could no longer afford her room and became homeless: “I spent five weeks at Victoria coach station, sleeping sitting up”, she says, shuddering as she's now been at SFTS for several months and cherishes having a bed: “After losing it all and being out on the street, you appreciate everything here”, she says: “The shelter is like a university of life -- you have time to learn to cope and to get to know yourself better.
She hopes to find work and become independent again. “I’m still around and my brain works”, she laughs. She’d like to use her languages or work with children. Another dream is to travel to Nepal, or somewhere in South America: “I was born in the mountains, so I love climbing and trekking.
Margaret says she used to see the downside, even when good things happened. But that’s changed since arriving at the shelter. “When you’re down, you have no choice”, she says, “I’ve never been so positive in my life”.
"And while chopping vegetables and washing dishes, I got to know not only the other volunteers, but the guests as well, many of whom I recognized from around Islington and still see even after they have left the shelter.
"It's a truly local labor of love. Shelter from the Storm runs on good, simple work: making supper, feeding people, and listening to their stories. It feels easier to say "yes" to others there; it feels easier be kind."