On Friday 4th October, hundreds of people are expected to join Glass Door’s annual mass sponsored sleep out in Duke of York Square, Chelsea, London. Since 2013 over 1,100 individuals have slept out raising more than £1m for the emergency shelters the charity provide which give individuals a route out of homelessness.
Glass Door offers the largest open-access winter shelter in the country offering spaces on a first-come first-served basis and do not require those seeking shelter to fill in complicated forms. This year Glass Door is hoping to raise £200,000 from the Sleep Out. It costs them just £23 to provide each guest with a safe, warm place to sleep, a hot dinner, breakfast and a warm welcome.
Glass Door relies on the funds raised from the Sleep Out and the enthusiasm of their volunteers to sustain and expand their network of shelters. The charity was founded twenty years ago when several churches in Chelsea came together to open their doors and offer shelter, hearty food, and a genuine warm welcome to homeless people one night a week each.
The charity has grown enormously and last winter twenty nine churches opened their doors one night a week each to provide four night shelter circuits for the homeless in four London boroughs (Kensington & Chelsea, Hammersmith & Fulham, Wandsworth and Richmond) giving them somewhere to sleep every night of the week.
This winter, subject to the funding being raised, another new circuit will be launched in Kensington and Chelsea offering more of those affected by homelessness a bed for each night of the week. Last winter, thanks mainly to the success of the Sleep Out and the funds raised, Glass Door was able to offer 19,281 sleeping spaces, helping 700 guests find shelter. The charity aims to offer 20% more sleeping places this coming winter.
As Lucy Abraham, Chief Operating Officer of Glass Door says: “The Glass Door model, which links seven churches to form a night shelter circuit with a nearby daytime drop-in centre supported by experienced caseworkers, is ingenious. Each church not only brings a large space but also provides an army of willing and compassionate volunteers to serve food and provide a friendly face to our guests. As an ever-growing group of people need our help, we are hoping our 7th annual Sleep Out will be our largest ever.”
The need for emergency shelters shows no sign of slowing down as the number of people sleeping rough in London has swelled over the last twenty years. According to statistics released by the Department for Communities and Local Government, homelessness is about three times higher than it was a decade ago.
Glass Door has also seen a huge surge in demand for its shelters with 42% more people seeking a place in 2018-19 than in the previous year. All four shelter circuits were full in 2018-19 within the first week of being open.
“For twenty years we have been welcoming all who turn to us, because no one should have to sleep on the streets of London. “ says Rev Brian Leathard, Glass Door’s Chair of Trustees.