Ilford night shelter offers hope to homeless people this winter
PUBLISHED: 09:00 27 December 2014
Reporter Beth Wyatt speaks to volunteers from Ilford Salvation Army who are giving up their time to help vulnerable people this festive season
But the festive season can be a lonely period for some, including the thousands of homeless people sleeping on the streets.
Those with nowhere to go and no one to turn to will be out in the cold again this winter, but a charity is determined that this will not be the case in Redbridge.
Ilford Salvation Army is running its annual night shelter, which provides vulnerable people with meals, activities and a warm, safe place to sleep for the night.
The initiative, made possible by the help of more than 150 volunteers, has played a key role in the community since 2011.
Naomi Clifton, 30, church leader of the charity alongside husband John, said: “Everyone is coming in with a real sense of joy.
“Some guests are returning and have come for two or three years, so they haven’t moved on [into housing].
“It is really peaceful and we have a fantastic team of volunteers, who have so much to give.
“They have such a sense of compassion for people, but also a desire to build community. It is a privilege to be part of.”
The guests are all referred from the Welcome Centre, in St Mary’s Road, Ilford, to ensure they are verified as homeless.
If any do not turn up, a place opens up for someone on the reserve list.
Michael Rodwell, 44, came to Ilford from Walthamstow after being released from prison, where he was serving a sentence for drugs offences.
He said: “I just wanted to get away from people taking drugs. I was in jail for long enough.
“I had my own rented place before but after jail I was homeless. Before I was drinking and smoking crack [cocaine] but now I am clean from drugs.
“I promised myself I would never go back to that place.”
Michael, who has worked at travelling fairgrounds since the age of about 11, has been supported by the Welcome Centre, which provides showers, hot meals, clothes and a laundry service.
He is now being offered additional aid through the Salvation Army’s shelter.
“It’s been good and people have been helping me out. It’s better than being out in the cold.
“I will be coming until it closes in March.”
Michael hopes to find his own accommodation and would like to work with disabled people in the future.
Kishan Lal has been homeless for four years and has attended the shelter since it first launched.
He began sleeping on the streets after he was shunned by relatives for being arrested and placed in a cell for a night after an incident on a bus.
He said: “I go on all the night buses to sleep. It’s not good and I need a house.
“But I’m used to it, this life.”
One woman who can assist people like Michael and Kishan is Rita Kambona, 34, who is the shelter’s project co-ordinator this year.
Her role is to help as many of the guests as possible move on into permanent accommodation.
Rita said: “It’s great, it’s not a job for me – it’s like home.
“It’s different to anything else I have done.
“I’m speaking to them and dealing with any issues. The thing with homelessness is that anyone can become homeless – one guy here has a masters degree, it’s really sad.
“But the guests are all forming their own little groups and the other volunteers are absolutely great, with a mix of different personalities.
“We have become a family.”
The shelter runs until March 6.
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