New Holloway shelter offers homeless a bed and a sympathetic ear

Volunteers spend two months turning old glass factory into refuge

Friday, 15th February 2019 — By Emily Finch

Glass House shelter_Jon Glackin from Streets Kitchen Sam Hadfield and Mark Brennan of Housing Justice

Jon Glackin, from Streets Kitchen, with Sam Hadfield and Mark Brennan, of Housing Justice, at the shelter

DOZENS of socks, a dehumidifier and hundreds of hours… these are just a few things locals have donated to a homeless shelter which opened its doors on Wednesday night.

The shelter in Hornsey Road, Holloway – called the Glass House because of its status as a former glass factory – opened with the help of 300 volunteers who spent two months transforming the space.

Jon Glackin, from volunteer-run Streets Kitchen, which helps feed hundreds of homeless people every night throughout London, is one of the many people behind the shelter, where up to 50 people will bed down during freezing-cold nights.

He said: “No one should have to be on the streets with so many empty buildings available that we could put back into use to save lives and create better futures for all.”

Every person spending the night at the shelter has a brightly-coloured blanket crafted by volunteers from Knit for Peace. They are given a box containing toothbrushes, blankets, a sleeping bag and biscuits.

The building is provided by Hornsey Road developer Fitzpatrick Team Developments while the dehumidifier and showers were donated by Clare and John Austin, who run Academy Heating in Essex.

Sam Hadfield, a local who has been co-ordinating the volunteers, said it was “beautiful” seeing the community come together.

“I’ve had friends who I haven’t seen since primary school coming to help, including fixing the roof for free,” he said.

Following a near fatal heart attack 10 years ago, Mr Hadfield has devoted his life to helping homeless people and running Caris boxing club at Pooles Park primary school, where homeless and vulnerable people receive free training. “My role was to come in here and get this up and running, but now I don’t want to leave. It’s my second home,” he said.

The Mayor of London’s office gave £25,000 to the shelter, which is backed by Islington and Camden councils.

Steering groups which will ensure the smooth running of the space include charity Housing Justice and the Pilion Trust, based off Caledonian Road, which offers advice and shelter to youngsters at risk of homelessness.

Pilion Trust chief executive Savvas Panas said he was “stressed but excited” for the launch.

His team are to use a “new model” to find those in need of a bed. “It’s not a traditional-style shelter,” he said. “We go to meet the homeless people once they are referred. From there they will be given an invitation to come. They won’t be forced to come and they will be invited to be part of this community we are setting up to help them.

“We will listen to them about their narrative and experiences. We will look at what was it that made them homeless and why they were abandoned. We will ask them: ‘What is it that you’re looking for?’ and hopefully that way we may be able to see longer-term positive outcomes.”

The shelter was inspired by Mr Glackin’s occupation of an empty hotel in Great Portland Street in the West End last March when 200 people were temporarily housed during heavy snowfall.

The group were evicted after the property owners took Mr Glackin to the High Court.

The shelter will be open for three months, with guests receiving support after it closes.

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