Have you ever thought about how it feels to not have a safe house and a comfy bed to go to when night-time comes? How would you keep warm? Where would you go, and what would you eat?
Chris is a young man in his early twenties who had to ask himself all these questions when he became homeless in September 2014. After losing his job, he was unable to afford paying rent.
He sofa surfed with friends and eventually ended up on the street. He was cold and lonely.
“On the nights I slept out I had to keep on moving to keep warm. I only stayed in the same place for about 10-15 minutes before I had to move on. I never got much sleep,” Chris says. “The coldest period came just before Christmas, when it was around -2 degrees.”
Helped by a stranger
One day, a member of the Emmanuel Church in Wimbledon saw Chris sitting on the street. He told him to go to the Faith In Action Homeless Project. There, he met Nicki Zisman who co-ordinates the Merton Winter Night Shelter. She helped him secure a place in the scheme and with the support from the Night Shelter he has now managed to get a part time job.
“Having a place to sleep makes everything easier,” Chris says. “You can focus on sorting your life out, instead of thinking about where you are going to go in the night. Also at some of the venues they have laptops we can use to write job applications, and the volunteers are really helpful. It was actually through one of the volunteers that I got a job”.
Help to move on
Securing a place to live will be the next step on Chris’s road back to independency. This too, is something the Merton Winter Night Shelter is supporting the homeless people with.
“We have hosted 26 different guests in the Shelter so far this winter”, says Nicki. “Three of which have moved on to more stable accommodation and six have found legal jobs since being in the Shelter, enabling them to save up for a deposit for a room. Many of our guests have also worked with us to produce CV’s and are actively looking for work. All of our guests look healthier & more relaxed than they were when we first met them”.
Support the Shelter by taking part in Sleep Easy
However, not everyone is as lucky as Chris and the other guests who have found work or permanent homes.
The waiting list for a place in the Shelter is long and Nicki says she has had to refer many on to other shelters like No Second Night Out, Crisis at Christmas and Street Rescue/Thames Reach. She has also arranged for sleeping bags to be given out to those who don’t have a place yet.
If you would like to how your support for the Merton Winter Night Shelter and help people like Chris, you can take part in the annual YMCA LSW fundraising challenge Sleep Easy.