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Shelter bids to calm Archway estate fears over homeless

We run a tight ship, says founder hoping to turn empty shop into ‘warm, safe, peaceful haven’

15 June, 2018 — By Emily Finch

From left, Shelter from the Storm general manager Matt Conlon, trustee Stephen Fixman, Sheila Scott and volunteer Rosie Buchanan. ‘We have zero tolerance to any drink or drugs,’ said Ms Scott

THE founder of a homeless shelter has assured residents concerned at plans for its move to their estate that “she runs a tight ship”.

Shelter from the Storm has housed thousands of people in an overnight shelter off Caledonian Road since 2010. Volunteers offer guests a cooked dinner and breakfast every day of the year.

But the shelter, funded entirely by donations, is looking for a new home as the lease of its existing base on an industrial estate comes to an end in the next few months.

Shelter founder Sheila Scott, 64, assured neighbours on the council estate in Archway that they would face minimal disturbance from the 40 or so guests who bed down every night.

She said: “We have zero tolerance to any drink or drugs. People don’t just turn up here, that’s important to say. People are all assessed by agencies and other charities and referred.

“We run a tight ship. I’ve been doing this since 2007. Homeless people are not raging, angry people. They are people.”

The former convenience store that will house Shelter from the Storm

She added: “We don’t take people who are profoundly unwell or with active and chronic drink and drug issues. We won’t accept them. We only receive guests between 6.30pm and 7.30pm. Once they’re in, they’re in for the night.” The shelter closes at 8am each morning.

The charity filed a planning application at the Town Hall last month to convert a former convenience store on the estate into a community café, corner shop and night shelter.

The former Nisa Local shop has been empty since closing two months ago.

One resident, who lives next to the proposed shelter but does not wish to be named, said all her neighbours would be objecting to the plans.

“It’s too much on our doorstep,” she said. “The shelter might bring other unsavoury characters. I’m not saying it’s true for all of them, but some of them might be drug addicts.

“Everyone has children in my block. You can’t put homeless people in the middle of an estate. Maybe somewhere in the City or West End where it’s less residential.”

But Ms Scott defended those who use the shelter. “Homelessness can happen to any of us,” she said. “We shelter civil servants, cleaners, bankers and baristas. All of them are someone’s mother or daughter, father, brother or son. None of us is immune to the danger [of homelessness].

“We are a warm, safe, peaceful haven for those who’ve found themselves without a roof over their heads – a place where we help them find a job, a home, a friend.”

In the last year the charity has helped 173 people move into their own homes while a third of current guests are in full-time employment.

The shelter has gained many fans throughout the years, including noted restaurant critic AA Gill and Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn.

A council committee will make a decision on the shelter’s planning application in the next few months.

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