BY YANN TEAR
The Glass Door homeless charity has enlisted a man it helped off the streets to front a Christmas appeal.
Glass Door relies on donations to keep its services free and open to all in need.
It costs £24 a night for the organisation – which operates mainly in west London – to offer dinner, a bed for the night, breakfast and a warm welcome.
The charity is open throughout the coldest 22 weeks of the year, and remains open every night in the holidays, even on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
This Christmas, Glass Door aims to raise £60,000 to cover the cost of accommodating 170 people at its shelters each night during the two weeks of the holiday period.
That usually means a sleeping bag and mat on the floor of one of the churches which have signed up to offer aid.
James Swan has agreed to be the face of Glass Door’s campaign to open doors for others this Christmas.
James slept rough at Christmas after a serious of incidents – including a broken neck, debt and relationship breakdown – left him homeless.
“I can think of no greater gift than to give someone else the warm welcome and support that I was given,” he said.
“The streets were so quiet on Christmas Day and nothing was open. The hunger, the cold and the wet were bad, but the loneliness and isolation at Christmas was overwhelming.
“I stayed in the night shelters for two months while a Glass Door caseworker helped me find a route out of homelessness.
Glass Door’s employability co-ordinator helped me sort out my CV and apply for jobs.
Another cold night and I could have been done for. But Glass Door opened doors to me when I had almost lost all hope.
“I have lived in an independent flat for two years and seven months now, and I have a job where I work night shifts.
I have spent the last two Christmases in my own home. Now Christmas is totally different.
It feels festive, and I have managed to get back in touch with my family so I can celebrate it with them.”
The charity opened the doors of its emergency winter shelters three weeks ago.
It has already sheltered several vulnerable guests, including three pregnant women, several people with significant health conditions and one elderly man.
Glass Door caseworkers have successfully secured housing for someone who was staying in the emergency winter night shelters with a long-term health condition.
Anther guest they are helping is undergoing chemotherapy, while another uses a wheelchair.
In Glass Door’s 20-year history, the oldest guest on record to stay in its shelters was 83. That record was recently equalled.
Lucy Abraham, chief operating officer for the charity, said: “It is shocking to see how many vulnerable people are turning to us for shelter this year.
“The rise in the number of guests with health conditions and who are pregnant compared to last year suggests a worrying trend.
“We have an open doors policy, which means we don’t discriminate between guests. It’s first come, first-served.
Many of our guests tell us they have nowhere else to turn. That’s why our Christmas appeal this year is all about helping to open a door to a new life away from the streets.
We don’t believe that anyone should face a closed door at Christmas time.”
To donate to the appeal, please log on to: www.glassdoor.org.uk/Appeal/christmas-appeal-2019