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Health ‘MOT’ day for homeless being set up for Spitalfields Crypt Trust 50th anniversary

PUBLISHED: 07:00 21 October 2015

It's a snip... homeless get free haircuts

It's a snip... homeless get free haircuts

Spitalfields Crypt Trust

A health ‘MOT’ day is being set up for the homeless in east London with free medical checks and even giving haircuts.

A pop-up clothes store is to hand out coats, jumpers, socks and hats, ready for the winter months.

Clothing for homelsss from Spitalfields Crypt charity Clothing for homelsss from Spitalfields Crypt charity

The ‘MOT’ day on Thursday, October 29, is being held at east London’s historic Shoreditch Church.

It is marking the 50th anniversary of the Spitalfields Crypt Trust being set up in 1965 at the nearby Christ Church in Commercial Street by the rector who found a man dying on the church steps.

Medics next Thursday are looking for any signs of TB and checking heart rates among people living on the streets while dentists are looking at their dental health.

Barbara Windsor helping fundraing at Spitalfields Crypt charity shop in Bethnal Green, summer 2015 Barbara Windsor helping fundraing at Spitalfields Crypt charity shop in Bethnal Green, summer 2015

“The weather’s changing and it’s going to get harder to keep warm and dry,” the charity’s Gary Davidge said.

“That means more health problems for the homeless.

“This ‘MOT’ will show up any problems now, so that we can keep an eye on them when winter sets in properly.

Queue at original Spitalfields Crypt when homeless shelter opened in 1965 Queue at original Spitalfields Crypt when homeless shelter opened in 1965

The homeless will also be able to get kitted out with winter clothes before it gets too cold.”

A public appeal for spare coats, jumpers and socks in good condition is also being made at the charity’s shops in Whitechapel, Bethnal Green, Bow, Shadwell, Poplar, Canning Town and Leytonstone.

Princess Alexandra arrives in Spitalfields on November 6 to mark the 50th anniversary, when seven choirs sing a cappella at Spitalfields Market before leading a procession across Commercial Street to Christ Church crypt to start the a sponsored sleep-in where the original shelter was set up in 1965.

Domitary for homeless in Crypt at Spitalfields in 1965 Domitary for homeless in Crypt at Spitalfields in 1965

The sleep-in hopes to raise an extra £50,000 this year to run the charity’s programme helping those recovering from addictions to get back into work.

The charity has been running a ‘drop in’ service with food and advice since 1965, originally at Spitalfields, now at Acorn House at St Leonard’s Church in Shoreditch High Street where 160 people are being helped on average every week.

Chief executive Graham Marshall said: “Sadly today, there still remains a persistent need to help people through periods of addiction and homelessness, which are rapidly increasing again.”

Seeking shelter in Spitalfields Crypt in 1960s Seeking shelter in Spitalfields Crypt in 1960s

The Bishop of Stepney, The Rt Rev Adrian Newman, leads a Saturday service of thanksgiving at Spitalfields Church at 10.30am on November 7, to celebrate the redevelopment of the crypt.

The charity was born out of tragedy on a cold night in 1965, when the Rector Dennis Downham found a homeless man dying on the church steps.

He was so shaken by the experience that he opened the Crypt as a shelter that November for homeless alcoholic men.

Spitalfields Crypt charity shops

Whitechapel: 27 Whitechapel Road, E1

Shadwell: 34-36 Watney Market, E1

Bethnal Green: 285 Bethnal Green Road, E2

Bow: 589-91 Roman Road, E3

Poplar: 12 Market Way, Chrisp Street Market, E14

Leytonstone: 670-72 Leytonstone High Road, E11

Canning Town: 152 Barking Road, E16

Today, the trust he set up still looks after London’s homeless and addicts, alongside other projects.

It provides practical help, support and training to people who have been homeless and suffering from alcohol or drug addiction.

A drop-in rehabilitation hostel and a personal development and training centre for recovering addicts helps them gain work experience and training.

The charity, one of the first in Britain to provide shelter and rehabilitation to homeless alcoholic men, operates several social enterprises as well as a chain of charity shops across East London that bring in much desperately-needed income. But it still depends on public donations to fill the gaps in funding.

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