Our Ambassador Programme in action

Manchester based Ambassador; Gemma Copp from Buttress Architects has kindly provided us with a brilliant overview of her experience visiting Shelter from the Storm, a free emergency night shelter in London providing for people experiencing homelessness.

At LandAid, we have been working hard to re-develop our Ambassador Programme to ensure that it is creating the most valuable impact for the young people experiencing homelessness that we support, as well as for the property professionals involved, and the companies they work for.

The programme is built on the belief that the next generation is the future, not just of fundraising, but of driving an industry that considers the social impact of its decisions. We want to support the future leaders of today, giving them the tools to create a more socially conscious property industry, for employees and communities across the UK.

Our Ambassador Programme offers multiple ways of being involved with LandAid, all based on the bespoke skills of the individual.

June has been an extra exciting month, as we were able to bring some of our LandAid Ambassadors together in person for the first time in over two years!

The day enabled the Ambassadors from across the UK to work alongside one another, collaborating with surveyors, solicitors, architects, developers and professional designers to generate ideas that can support LandAid in our mission to end youth homelessness.

Most importantly, the day also involved a visit to a youth homelessness charity in London, from Shelter from the Storm, YMCA LandAid House, Cardinal Hulme or New Horizon Youth Centre. There, Ambassadors could see for themselves the types of places that LandAid is funding and the impact that their support can have on the lives of young people experiencing homelessness.

Manchester based Ambassador; Gemma Copp from Buttress Architects has kindly provided us with a brilliant overview of her experience visiting Shelter from the Storm, a free emergency night shelter in London providing for people experiencing homelessness.  

On 14 June, I attended the LandAid Ambassador meet-up in London, during which I was fortunate to visit Shelter from the Storm. Due to a shortage of beds and large waiting list, they operate by referral only and don’t take drop-ins. The shelter receives five to six referrals a week, with an average stay of 28 days.

The shelter acquired the ground-floor premises of a previous convenience store in a neighbourhood within North London. Planning permission was hard to achieve, with many negative responses from existing residents. Night shelters for those experiencing homelessness are typically connected to negative perspectives such as crime and anti-sociable behaviour. Through persistence and the sharing of success stories, the shelter was able to achieve planning and has since received a lot of positive feedback, with top comments from surrounding residents expressing how safe the area now feels as it populates the streetscape and provides an active frontage.

An £100k LandAid grant, added to the funds raised by the shelter, enabling them to renovate their newly purchased property in 2019.

There are two entrances, one for public access into the cafe and the other for private, residential use and a main desk for checking in and out. Just behind the desk and separate from the semi-private spaces within, is a consultation room that allows staff to assess prospective residents on their physical and mental health, and their current position in terms of homelessness.  
The internal spaces are centered around a semi-public, non-profitable cafe and linked to semi-private amenities spaces, as well as three private dormitories. These include a room of 12 beds for females and two rooms (one with three beds and one with five beds) for males. A fourth dorm is currently under construction and awaits funding. The electrics, flooring and furniture is yet to be installed. The intention is to include joinery with alcoves for beds, storage, sockets to charge phones and individual side lamps with a privacy blind.

The cafe is zoned into different areas, that includes benches for coffee ‘on-the go’, sit down tables for food, computer desks along the wall spaces to create CVs and lounging areas with comfortable sofas and televisions.

The open kitchen at the centre of the space allows temporary residents and the public  to interact with each other and the volunteering staff.

Amenities include a well-equipped and clean shared unisex bathroom with doors to the floor to give an additional sense of privacy and a laundry room that volunteering staff run and operate. Clothing is washed, dried and ironed, allowing temporary residents to feel relaxed and worry free. A second, central office provides additional services to help residents with their next steps out of homelessness. These include counselling from an external psychologist that visits every Friday, as well as English language lessons, immigration help, reviewing work opportunities, CV building, signing up to a GP and getting a form of ID. Sometimes, residents will need to find a lawyer which is difficult but possible, utilising the shelter’s connections. Lastly, an enclosed but external space is proposed to become a bike hub, allowing residents and non-residents to visit and learn how to fix their bike.

Those that come to the shelter, they are often unsupported with no priority lead for additional government benefits. The lead volunteer described the shelter as a place of healing, a place of transformation and a place of hope.

Some of the most powerful and heart-breaking things I heard during the day was the difficultly those on the streets have to face, such as falling asleep on a bus and waking up to their few personal items missing or stolen, as well as the knowing that the monthly rent of social housing is MORE than the UK job seekers’ income benefit schemes. My heart sank when visiting the dormitories, to see slippers by the bed and the different bedding that adds a sense of personality to each of the bunks, reminding myself of the gratitude and privilege I hold to have a home where I can store my personal belongings.

Furthermore, 16–25-year olds facing homelessness will always be “demonised,” and will struggle more than the average young adult, with many unwilling to help; they  face challenges every day that are out of their control.

We know that if we work together now, we can create a more socially conscious property industry of the future that can continue the work of charities like Shelter from the Storm and ultimately end youth homelessness for good!

Find out more about our LandAid Ambassador Programme here.

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