Shelter from the Storm is a completely free emergency night shelter providing bed and meals for 38 homeless people in London, every night of the year. This Summer they opened their doors to a new home.

Designed by Holland Harvey Architects, the new space has been converted from a former supermarket into a domestic haven. After opening the original shelter in 2007, co-founder and Chief Executive Sheila Scott led the charge for the new shelter, and the achievements are impressive.

Over the past 12 years, Sheila and her team have successfully supported 173 guests into their own permanent accommodation, helped 90 guests find employment or keep existing jobs, as well as providing over 15,000 temporary beds and serving over 18,000 dinners.

After donating a selection of bulbs for the dining room and bedrooms, we wanted to catch up with Sheila to find out more about the charity and beautiful new venue.

What is the original mission of Shelter from the Storm?

Our mission is to house and support the homeless in London whoever they are, wherever they come from. Our vision is of a society where charities like Shelter from the Storm are no longer necessary.

What was missing from the previous venues that the new space has?

Our old place was literally falling to pieces! Our new home has more showers which means guest never have to queue, two meeting rooms so we can work in privacy with guests. The shelter has been designed with the needs of our guests at its core. We are especially pleased with the way the architects have managed to get light into a very difficult site. The kitchen is still at the heart of the shelter.

What about the new shelter makes it feel like a home, and why is that important?
The finishes were all chosen with a feel for the domestic. We picked a beautiful wooden floor and all the tiles and lighting are warm and inviting. A shelter is just a temporary home for people who’ve found themselves homeless and we haven’t used anything we wouldn’t be happy to have in our own homes.

How important is it to humanise homelessness and how do you do that?
We ask people what they want or need and then we provide a wrap-around holistic service to do everything we can to help them achieve their needs and really kick start their lives.

I’ve been listening to the podcast and it’s incredible to hear such personal stories, they are very inspirational. Are there any plans to bring the podcast back?
Yes. They take a great commitment from our guests to share their often heart-breaking stories and they are a careful and collaborative process.

Q6. It took a long time to confirm your new premises and rebuild. What were the main obstacles for completing the project?
The main difficulty was getting change of use for the building but we had amazing support from our advisers at Planning Potential.

Is it easy to find volunteers for the shelter? Do you ever have previous guests come back to help out?
We always need committed volunteers who are able to attend regularly. Many of our ex guests come back to volunteer once they are permanently housed

What do you consider the greatest achievement for SFTS so far?
The good news? After 12 years we’re still operating
The bad news? After 12 years we’re still operating!

In this age of austerity and cutbacks, what does the future look like for you and the charity?
It feels dreadful that we’re needed now more than ever. We will continue to support homeless people and do whatever we can to help change attitudes to homelessness.

 

 

 

A few quick-fire questions:

Most popular meal at the shelter?
Fish fingers and chips
Longest standing volunteer?
Chris has been with us from the very beginning in the church hall
Popular evening entertainment?
Pool and telly

For more information, or to enquire about volunteering for Shelter from the Storm, visit their website, or follow them on Twitter  Instagram

Photography by Mary Stephenson