999 Club Launch Crowdfunding Appeal to fund its first Summer Shelter

David MacGregor 999 Club News, Campaigns

The 999 Club in Deptford, South-East London will on May 16th, 2018 launch a crowdfunding campaign to raise £20,000 to fund a Night Shelter this summer.

This is the first time the charity will run a shelter for homeless people during the summer months, and the 20-bed facility will be one of only three Night Shelters open in London over the summer (the others are run by Shelter from The Storm in Islington and The Missionaries of Charity in Elephant and Castle.)

It will cost £24,000 to operate the summer shelter – £17.15 per person per night – most of which the charity is hoping to raise through its month-long crowdfunding campaign on the site Crowdfunder. The campaign page will go live May 16th, 2018 (https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/summershelter).

Previously, the 999 Club ran winter shelters, providing beds for 10 people over a course of 10 weeks during the coldest months of the year.

However, homelessness affects people all year round and people need a safe place to sleep during the warmer months of the year as well as in the winter.

In the context of rapidly increasing homelessness in Lewisham, the capacity of the Night Shelter has doubled since January 2018. The introduction of a summer season is part of a three-year plan to extend the Night Shelter to provide year-round support. By 2019 the charity aims to have the shelter operating for 40 weeks, across all four seasons.

Why summer?

The 999 Club’s shelter will be one of two shelters in operation in South London this summer and the only one in Lewisham.

The 999 Club experiences higher demand for its Night Shelter outside of the winter months during which there is more emergency accommodation available in London. Our Night Shelter is currently at maximum capacity and is running a waiting list.

There is high public awareness of the need for homeless shelters during the winter, but the long summer days and warm, light and busy summer nights mean fewer places for homeless people to sleep out undisturbed, and more risk of violence and anti-social behaviour against those sleeping rough.

Dehydration and heat-related illnesses are also significant risks.

Raph (50), who became homeless after his landlord increased his rent, said: “There’s more violence in the summer. People are drinking (alcohol) and wandering around after nights out. You might wake up and have people pissing on you.”

Gerald (48), who became homeless after falling ill, described some of the challenges of sleeping rough in the summer: “The light makes it more difficult to hide, so you get collared a lot more. At 4 or 5 in the morning, the sun’s up and authorities or park keepers will wake you up and say you can’t sleep here.”

What 999 Club does

The Night Shelter runs daily for 10 weeks, with 20 places available each night. It provides a safe, warm place to sleep for those who are rough sleeping locally.

Each guest is given toiletries, bedding, earplugs, an eye mask and access to a shower, a laundry service and computers as well as dinner and breakfast daily. They are assigned a case manager who assists with securing any missing ID, accessing or maximising benefits, receiving healthcare, getting a job and securing housing.

The charity also runs a daily drop-in at its Gateway centre on Deptford Broadway, where its staff and volunteers provide holistic support to empower homeless people to transform their lives.

999 Club CEO Tim Fallon commented: “Rough sleeping is a devastating experience – not just in winter but at any time of year. It is extremely dangerous and has a very negative impact on both physical and mental health & on safety and results in a life expectancy of just 43 for women and 47 for men. It also has a detrimental effect on wider society leading to increased pressures and costs for statutory health, social care and criminal justice agencies

We have to raise 99% of our funding ourselves. So far we have managed to secure funding for Night Shelters in winter and in spring. This Crowdfunding campaign will fund one this summer.”

Vicky Foxcroft, MP for Deptford and Lewisham, said: “I’m incredibly proud to have the 999 Club in my constituency. Its Night Shelters offer a fantastic service to rough sleepers, not only providing them with a safe place to sleep but also offering assistance with employment, benefits and access to healthcare.

It’s easy to assume that homeless people need more help in the winter, but the summer brings its own problems with increased risks from violence and anti-social behaviour. I urge anyone with a few pounds to spare to donate so that the 999 Club can provide vital support this summer.”

Homelessness crisis

The increase in provision at the 999 Club is in response to a crisis of homelessness across England, as the number of homeless people rises, in an increasingly difficult funding and economic environment.

The number of homeless people sleeping on the streets in England is the highest since records began and has risen year-on-year since 2010.

This ongoing increase is also reflected in the charity’s home borough of Lewisham where the number of homeless people increased by 70% from quarter 1 to quarter 4 of 2017, as reported by CHAIN.[1]

Key factors affecting homelessness are changes to the welfare benefits system and the local housing market.  The Housing Benefit cap means there is now a huge disparity between the local housing allowance and the market rent. In addition to this, the rollout of Universal Credit has made those in receipt of Housing Benefit even less attractive to landlords, with fewer properties being available to them.

The local housing market also means there is a dire shortage of affordable housing.  High housing costs, coupled with a shortage of social housing, means more residents living in the private rented sector where rents are rising fast and many residents are subject to rogue landlords and insecurity. As reported by Lewisham Poverty Commission, evictions from the private rented sector are driving homelessness in Lewisham.[2]

Gerald also commented on how members of the public treated him when he was sleeping rough: “People have lost their empathy. They are indifferent to feeling, but they need to remember that this (homelessness) could happen to anyone. It just takes a few things to go wrong – if you get sick and can’t work, your savings go on rent and sooner or later you have nothing left. That’s what happened to me.”

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[1] https://data.london.gov.uk/dataset/chain-reports

[2] https://www.lewisham.gov.uk/news/Documents/LewishamPovertyCommissionReportFinal.pdf