We sat down with Sheila Scott of Shelter from the Storm, Ennismore’s first charity partner.
Based in Islington, a borough in North London, Shelter from the Storm provides shelter and support for the homeless and dispossessed – whoever they are, wherever they come from. It operates every night of the year and is completely free to guests.
Now, with the help of Ennismore, SFTS is moving premises and opening a new permanent home in Upper Holloway.
As the build enters its final stages, we caught up with Sheila Scott, Chief Executive and Co-Founder, who’s been doing her amazing work since 2007.
How does SFTS work?
We’re an entirely independent and self-funded emergency night shelter for 42 homeless men and women based in Islington, London. We accept referrals from across London and have supported thousands of people with shelter since we first began. We provide a bed, freshly cooked dinner and breakfast, plus so much more. We’re a volunteer-led project, with between 100 and 150 volunteers each week responsible for running the shelter.
What’s a typical day for you involve?
During the day, with Matt, our GM, I cover all the admin for the charity – we have no other staff for this. I will meet with potential funders and give talks to people who want to support the charity. We do all our own fundraising work; that means all of our donations go directly towards achieving outcomes for our guests. Most evenings, I’m at the shelter helping the volunteers, talking to the guests, cleaning the loos!
There isn’t just one story of homelessness. Is this a common misconception?
Absolutely, homelessness can happen to any of us. The biggest cause is the loss of a tenancy, but redundancy, relationship breakdown, domestic violence, the failure of Universal Credit, Windrush generation issues, refugee status, asylum seekers, people fleeing modern-day slavery, people cast out due to their sexuality… are all causes of homelessness. People often think it couldn’t happen to them.
What factors have contributed to the high rates of homelessness in London?
I’d say, shortage of truly affordable housing; low pay and insecure employment; and the failure of Universal Credit.
Shelters can be tough places as they involve a lot of people, in high stress, in close quarters. How do you make it a safe place to be?
We use many of the same practices as you do in the hospitality industry. Everyone is treated with courtesy and respect.
How does SFTS approach shelter for homeless people who have specific needs?
We don’t work with those who have profound mental health issues, but many homeless people will feel depressed and isolated. We have our own Counsellor who can see someone new within a week and if necessary we will make referrals to further specialist services. We don’t allow drugs or alcohol, but for those in recovery or who need help with substance misuse, we support them and help them access specialist services.
How does STFS help people get back on their feet?
We take people off the streets first then work holistically with each guest – developing the best possible care plan for each individual. For many, this will be employment and move-on into their own home. We provide people with a settled base, including an address where they can receive mail and register for benefits. They’re given access to a counsellor, a fantastic caseworker, and a qualified English teacher, if needed. It’s a place to feel warm, safe and supported, and in a position to really kick start their lives.
What needs to happen to prevent people sleeping rough?
Housing First, a homeless assistance approach that prioritises providing permanent housing to people experiencing homelessness. It’s designed to offer long-term, open-ended support for their ongoing needs.
Tell us about the people you’ve met through SFTS?
I’ve met thousands of homeless people over the years who have been an enduring inspiration to me.
Can you tell us about the new site and how SFTS came to partner with Ennismore?
It was almost exactly a year ago when Heather (Brand Director at Ennismore) reached out to us to see if Ennismore could help us – we met up and loved their attitude. We worked together on an amazing Apprenticeship and Employment initiative – one of our ex guests is now working at Gleneagles and would honestly say that their life has been transformed!
We are in the process of creating a brand new permanent home for the homeless which will include a community café and a small local store, all on the site of a failed supermarket in Islington. With the fantastic help of the Ennismore team, from design to project management, it’s being built with the needs of our guests at its very heart.
Ennismore has not only made a most generous financial contribution, without which we wouldn’t be able to complete the project, but also supported us with the donations from their Christmas party, restaurants (50p optional donation from each bill) and hotels (£1 optional donation at booking). The staff from Eggbreak even came in to cook an amazing dinner for us. We’re incorporating many of the details that Ennismore use in their hotels. Our shelter/café will be a beautiful space where we hope people will feel warm and safe and included – whoever they are, wherever they come from.
To read more about SFTS and find out how you can volunteer, visit their website.