By Ryan Maynes, LCEH – Head of Policy
Over the past couple of weeks, volunteers from our campaign have been volunteering to help out at Ashford Place, a night shelter for homeless people in Brent. Having attended an excellent event that the centre staged in Westminster, our campaign decided to volunteer in any way we could, and were delighted when John Doocey, the centre’s community services director, asked us to set up a weekly event whereby we cook food with the service users and get to know them.
Our first trip to Ashford Place was an eye opener for many of our volunteers, and showed us exactly why we are doing what we do. Our weekly outreach sessions, where we go around the streets of London, have been a vital learning curve for us all, and have allowed us to help hundreds of people over the course of the last six months.
While we intend to continue this vital service, we felt that it was just as important to help out at the other end of rough sleeping – where people have entered into a service with the hope of finding a place of their own. It was heart-wrenching to hear about some of the struggles that these men and women have been through, but also heart-warming to see these people start to come to terms with their emotions and begin the path to recovery.
On our first night, we provided chicken fajitas for around 10 people, and eat alongside them to discuss their experiences, as well as their hopes and fears for the future. We also discussed general topics like football and current events, and began to form a bond with them. The following week, word must have travelled that our food wasn’t too bad, as we had around 25 people there to eat our curry!
Our volunteers were also treated to a tour of the centre, and saw the common room as well as the onsite medical room and computer room. We were told how the money to build this centre came from donations, and that hundreds of people have filed through the doors since it was opened. Ashford Place truly is a sight to behold, a purpose-built centre for those who need help. We are honoured to continue to help out as long as we are needed, and strong bonds are being created between our volunteers and the service users.
We currently run one or two outreach sessions every week, as well as our time at Ashford Place. Unlike other campaigns within the Labour Party, we feel the best way to tackle sensitive issues like rough sleeping and homelessness is to be hands-on, getting stuck in and helping to fight the issue of homelessness head-on. If you or anybody you know would like to volunteer for our campaign, please let us know.
In these uncertain times for the Labour Party, our campaign is showing that members from all parts of the party can combine to truly make a difference. Together, we will end homelessness once and for all.