Councillor: ‘I was nearly homeless myself – give this shelter a chance’
The Archway shelter plans received 96 objections from neighbours
14 September, 2018 — By Emily Finch
A COUNCILLOR spoke of his own brush with homelessness when defending his decision to back plans for a shelter to be moved into an estate, despite dozens of objections from neighbours.
Phil Graham, a Labour councillor for Bunhill who was elected in this May’s elections, spoke to the Tribune after Thursday’s packed-out Town Hall meeting where all five councillors passed plans to move the homelessness shelter into an estate in Archway.
Cllr Graham, 53, found himself homeless almost 20 years ago.
He said: “I wound up divorced, sleeping on a friend’s office floor for a while. We are all so close to being homeless. I had friends who helped me out and I ended up with somewhere to live. Give it [the shelter] a chance. I believe it will improve the area.”
Volunteers for charity Shelter from the Storm have offered beds and meals to thousands of homeless people in an industrial estate off Caledonian Road since 2010.
Their lease runs out in the next few months and in May they submitted plans to the council to convert an abandoned shop in an Archway estate into a new shelter.
From left: Shelter from the Storm general manager Matt Conlon, trustee Stephen Fixman, Sheila Scott and volunteer Rosie Buchanan
The charity have asked the Tribune to withhold the exact location of their shelters as they only offer beds through a strict referral policy.
The plans received 96 objections from neighbours, who say they are worried about anti-social behaviour from guests staying at the shelter.
At a full council meeting last month, Labour councillor Marian Spall had submitted a 300-strong petition against the move, citing worries about “noise, disturbance and nuisance” in the “highly populated” area.
Cllr Graham, who is vice-chair of the planning sub committee, added: “Shelter from the Storm do a fantastic job.
“Although I can understand the residents’ fears. When you hear ‘homeless shelter’ you might think drug addicts, drunks but that’s not the case with Shelter from the Storm.
“What they do is offer shelter to people who through no fault of their own end up homeless.”
The shelter featured in a Channel 4 documentary in July where co-founder Sheila Scott revealed that around 40 per cent of guests are in work but are unable to afford homes in the ever- competitive London housing market.
She reassured worried residents that the shelter would be an asset to the local community and would include a café where events would be held and open to all neighbours.
She said: “We want to work in partnership with the local community and we really believe the café is going to be an asset to the area for many years to come.”
The plans were passed on the condition that there will be a review in a year’s time.