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Tower Hamlets homeless shelters gear up for winter

PUBLISHED: 12:00 25 September 2019 | UPDATED: 15:29 25 September 2019

GrowTH is expecting around 150 people to stay in their shelters in the seven months from October. Picture: Winston Mattis.

GrowTH is expecting around 150 people to stay in their shelters in the seven months from October. Picture: Winston Mattis.

Winston Mattis

Homeless shelters in Tower Hamlets have begun gearing up for winter and are now looking for volunteers to help them keep vulnerable people safe.

A volunteer prepares food for the guests. Picture: Winston Mattis.A volunteer prepares food for the guests. Picture: Winston Mattis.

Now in its 10th year, GrowTH is a partnership of 27 churches that helps keep people out of the cold.

With around 500 volunteers needed each season, GrowTH still needs around 100 to sign up, despite 400 die-hard volunteers offering their services year in, year out. It'll be offering its help from October 1.

Each church runs a shelter for a night. As well as a roof over their heads, the churches offer "guests" help into secure accommodation and give them a map to help them find the next shelter.

Matt Endersby is operations manager at GrowTH, which will be running the shelters for seven months and is expecting around 150 people to stay in that time.

He said: "We're hoping this year to get more than one third of our guests into permanent accommodation.

"We want to help as many of our guests as possible into permanent housing."

To help guests take that next step, the charity runs a housing scheme to offer affordable homes.

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Since 2015, GrowTH has offered housing to guests from the shelters. It now manages seven flats with a total of 14 beds for people in work or receive housing benefits.

A partnership with the housing association Poplar HARCA, residents typically stay a year before being helped into the private market.

The goal is to be "accessible and affordable".

Despite being a partnership of churches, the charity is open to people of all backgrounds, said Mr Endersby.

"What we want to do as a partnership of churches is show love for people," he added.

"We just want to do as much as possible for those people. Not only practically helping, but also inviting them into a community. A lot of the time, that will be through the churches, but also the [wider] community.

"We hope to bring people out of isolation.

"We just want to make sure people know they're welcome."

GrowTH is also hosting a "sleep-out" at St Anne's Church in Limehouse to help raise money for the cause on November 15. Participants will sleep outdoors with only a sleeping bag and a sheet of cardboard.

More information about the shelters and volunteering can be found at thisisgrowth.org.

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