“A big part of what we do for people who come into our shelter is break everything down into manageable chunks,” says Sam Forsdike, C4WS’s Welfare Coordinator. “When you first become homeless, everything is very overwhelming and you don’t know where to start.”
The biggest reason people use its services – which range from a shelter open for the five coldest months of the year, a jobs club, mentoring schemes and drop-in support services – is due to relationship breakdown.
“This could be splitting up with your partner, having an elderly parent pass away or being a young LGBTQ+ person who gets kicked out of home,” says Sam. “People have often suffered a very recent trauma, so they’re more focused on the fact that their parents won’t speak to them than on their homelessness.”
What C4WS looks to do then is to link it all together, locate the services and understand the individual’s requirements – and then connect the two. They then create easy-to-follow plans to make the process of finding a home, finding a job, getting language courses or legal assistance more manageable and attainable.The charity has been running in the borough of Camden for 13 years now. From humble beginnings they initially launched as a shelter, operating on an ad hoc basis for a few weeks of the year. They provided respite for homeless people, getting them off the streets and out of the cold, but offered no further move-on services.
Over the years, the organisation has evolved; gradually opening their shelter for longer, bringing in welfare workers, adding other projects. They now have four permanent members of staff and around 1000 volunteers.
“The team consists of a lovely cross-section of people living and working in Camden,” says Sam, “whether it’s local residents coming in and making beds and food or local businesses helping out at jobs club and mentoring people, they are the reason we can do what we do.”In short, it’s all about collaboration. “There’s a good bank of services in both Camden and Euston,” says Sam, “so while we may not be experts on mental health, for example, we can refer our users to somewhere that is.” They have similar arrangements with migrant and legal services, and their job is to get people in loop.
“The shelter is something of a stepping stone,” says Sam, “if you’ve been homeless, which could involve sleeping on night buses, on the street or sofa-surfing. The shelter is the next step up from that, then we move you into accommodation; from there we look for jobs, and throughout this process we stay present, with regular check-ins and support services still available.”
So what’s the best thing about Sam’s job? “Making a visible difference. People come to our shelter with very little hope; they’re broken. Over the course of a few weeks we build their confidence, help them to understand their potential and also help put a roof over their head. People can actually see that things are moving in the right direction and that’s a really lovely thing to witness.”