Barnet Post

Barnet Post

Housing the homeless

Together in Barnet is the only night shelter in the borough

Hero for Housing the homeless
Credit: Jon Tyson on Unsplash
By Amanda Weiss 07 November 2021

Homelessness can happen to anyone. It is a complex issue, and no two people’s stories are the same. Family or romantic relationship breakdown, illness, insecure income and unexpected expenses are some of the reasons people find themselves homeless. In most cases, it is a perfect storm of some, or all, of these factors colliding at once.

Acting as a refuge from this storm, we at Together in Barnet (TiB) provide a safety net for those needing a safe and welcoming place away from the streets. We run the only night shelter provision in the borough, offering people of all genders with low to medium needs who are experiencing homelessness emergency accommodation. With the help of a coalition of interfaith volunteers from 32 multi-faith communities, we provide 17 people per night a warm, welcoming, safe place to sleep, eat dinner and breakfast. We take referrals directly from our long-standing partner charity, Homeless Action in Barnet (HAB).

In 2019, we planned to extend the shelter from eight months to twelve months of the year but were forced to close due to the pandemic at the end of March 2020. Pre-pandemic the night shelter offered a vital, life-saving service. With Covid-19 it is even more critical as rough sleeping endangers not only the people concerned but creates significant associated public health risks for the wider community. So, we opened a 16-bed, 24/7 project in a local hotel in January 2021 and closed on 1st June. We are due to open the hotel again this month providing this vital service at a time when beds are needed.

One positive that has come out of the pandemic has been the increase in closer working and collaboration between statutory services and the voluntary sector. Since April 2020, we and HAB have had weekly meetings with the local authority’s housing and homelessness departments. It was invaluable when the shelter closed as, thankfully, all of our guests were placed in temporary accommodation. We continue to meet, working to support some of the most vulnerable people in our community together.

Since April 2020, in conjunction with HAB, we have been coordinating teams of volunteers delivering essential food parcels to people in temporary accommodation. At the height of the pandemic, volunteers were driving across eight London boroughs every week delivering parcels to over 170 people. These deliveries are still going strong, delivering weekly to a reduced number of people housed in Barnet and Enfield. More volunteers are needed so if you are interested in helping with this, please contact us.

Mental health conditions and homelessness go hand-in-hand. For some, mental ill-health can be a catalyst or contributing factor resulting in them not having a stable home. For many, sleeping on the street, on night buses or moving from place to place (sofa-surfing) has a detrimental effect on their mental health. The pandemic has exacerbated and magnified mental ill-health for vulnerably housed people and the wider community. In response to this, we are launching a new Mentoring and Supporting project. The aim is to tackle isolation and loneliness as well as offer guests and clients of HAB an opportunity to gain from the breadth of experience in the community. If you are interested in helping with this please contact us.

We have also been fundraising and offering our guests and clients of HAB small ad-hoc grants. These have included phones and credit so they can be in touch with their support workers and statutory services which is critical in enabling them to move into more stable accommodation, help with transport to attend property viewings as well as support to apply for ID documents if necessary. With the £20 phone credit someone who approached HAB for support and was rough sleeping was able to stay in regular contact with his probation worker who was facilitating his application for Universal Credit. Once this was secured he was able to move into stable accommodation. This illustrates what a huge impact a relatively small amount of money can make.

We rely on generous donations from the public, fundraising events, and grants to enable us to continue our vital work. If you would like to support this local grassroots charity, please go to our website to donate:

Visit togetherinbarnet.org/donate Email [email protected]