By Amy Bush
Highway House is a homeless shelter in Tottenham, providing help and support for homeless men in the Haringey borough. Earlier this year, they opened a day centre and are looking for volunteers to help run the service.
Since opening in 2009, Highway House have helped over 1000 people from more than 60 nationalities. Started by Reverend Alex Gyasi and his wife Dorcas, the shelter has become an important lifeline to many homeless people in Haringey.
Abigail, who helps run the shelter, explained: ‘We are unique because we shelter homeless people every day of the year, including homeless patients being discharged from hospital who would otherwise be sent back onto the streets.’
According to homelessness charity Crisis, after a huge rise in 2010, the number of rough sleepers in London is still increasing, and Highway House have noticed this trend.
‘Every year we have had to turn more people away due to lack of space and capacity. We have people referred to us, as well as people walking into the shelter, from Haringey and many other boroughs in London.’ Abigail told DT.
The added pressure on the shelter led them to open a day centre, currently open on Monday and Fridays 11am – 3pm. The centre is open to all homeless people in Haringey, as well as anyone on the verge of homelessness. They also welcome those living in isolation who would like a place to socialise and feel safe.
Service users (called guests) can access showers, get regular hot meals and use the internet. Guests can get help with completing benefits and housing application forms, and the centre provide advice on accessing free courses and employment training. The overall aim is to support people on their journey into independent living.
Volunteers are essential in order to run the day centre successfully. They are seeking people for a range of positions including cooks, barbers, beauticians, support workers, befrienders and English language teachers.
Befrienders are responsible for spending time with the guests and making them feel welcome. Having a chat, playing a board game or just keeping someone company can make a huge difference to a person who may be feeling vulnerable or isolated.
The centre also need ESOL teachers to support those who need support with their language skills, as well as support workers to help guests access healthcare, apply for benefits and look for employment.
Highway House have already helped many homeless people get back on their feet. Abigail said: ‘We had a 29-year-old man join the shelter and within 3 weeks of staying in the shelter and accessing the support of the day centre he was able to secure accommodation.’
Abigail also told us how they recently helped a man who had been evicted from his home because of rent arrears. Through the help of the day centre and the kindness of volunteers this guest has a new job and a considerably brighter future.
For more information or if you are able to give a bit of your time to help some of our most vulnerable neighbours, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0208 808 4444 on Monday, Wednesday or Friday between 11am and 5pm.
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