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Redbridge Together: Former rough sleeper becomes Salvation Army night shelter assistant

PUBLISHED: 13:10 04 April 2018 | UPDATED: 16:29 04 April 2018

Overnight assistant at the Salvation Army-run night shelter in Ilford. Photo: Aaron Walawalkar

Overnight assistant at the Salvation Army-run night shelter in Ilford. Photo: Aaron Walawalkar

Archant

Russell has gone from seeking respite in the Salvation Army (SA) night shelter to helping run it in the space of three years.

Redbridge Together Logo. Logo: Redbridge TogetherRedbridge Together Logo. Logo: Redbridge Together

Three years ago, Russell Williams, 58, was working as a live-in carer for an Ilford resident.

He told the Recorder of the resident’s unpredictable temper under the influence of alcohol.

One day, the resident demanded Russell leave.

Lacking sufficient income or savings to rent or buy, he became homeless.

“All my closest family members had passed on,” he explained.

Sleeping rough on the streets of Stratford, Russell encountered both abuse and kindness.

“I can remember once that four blokes tore the blanket from me that I was sleeping on,” he said, adding: “But there was also a woman who would always leave a tin of home-made ginger cake for me.”

After four months, Russell registered as homeless with the Welcome Project, a day centre in St Mary’s Road, which enabled him to stay at the Ilford SA-run seasonal night shelter in Clements Road.

With the support of homelessness charity Single Homeless Project in York Road, and Redbridge Council he now lives in Stratford.

After volunteering with the night shelter last year, he was employed as an overnight assistant in December.

“With the shelter closing [for the spring], a few people are worried about going back on to the streets.” he said, adding: “I can empathise with them.”

Over the next year, crowdfunding campaign Redbridge Together aims to raise £500,000 for two projects at the heart of helping the homeless in the borough.

Two thirds of all money raised will go towards the creation of pioneering pop-up hostel Project Malachi and one third to The Welcome Project day centre for the homeless.

Businesses can support by donating money, pledging to raise funds, displaying Redbridge Together promotional material in their stores and offering work placements.

Redbridge Together is an association between Ilford Salvation Army (SA), The Welcome Centre, Ilford BID, the Ilford Recorder and Redbridge Council.

Donate £3 by texting LIFE to 70145 or at Crowdfunder.co.uk/RedbridgeTogether

To get involved email: aaron.walawalkar@archant.co.uk

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