Annual
Report
20-21

Seeing God transform the marginalised
in Tower Hamlets, for His glory.

Table of Contents

Introduction from GrowTH’s director​

The report below outlines what has been a challenging yet exciting year for GrowTH. After ten years of running a rolling church night shelter, due to concerns around the spread of COVID-19 in communal spaces, the shelter was this season based from a local hotel. 

This was a great opportunity for GrowTH to try something new, and there were many invaluable lessons learned, which we will reflect on as we dream of the next ten years for GrowTH.

We were pleased that five shelter guests were able to be accommodated within our own housing project. GrowTH housing has moved from strength to strength since Nicky our Housing Manager took the helm. The future of the housing is secure indeed, thanks to a hugely generous donation of a property. “Those who honour me, I will honour,” (1 Samuel 2:30) is the scripture that has resonated with me as I have pondered on this staggering investment into GrowTH and our future.

I want to thank the wonderful staff team for their support since I became Director last year, our board of trustees for their wise advice and encouragement and our partner churches and volunteers for adapting so willingly during difficult times indeed.

We hope you will rejoice with us and thank God for His faithfulness and provision as you read of how He has used so many people in so many ways to bring light to the darkness and hope to the hopeless.

We love, because He first loved us.

Naomi

Introduction from GrowTH’s director​

The report below outlines what has been a challenging yet exciting year for GrowTH. After ten years of running a rolling church night shelter, due to concerns around the spread of COVID-19 in communal spaces, the shelter was this season based from a local hotel.

The report below outlines what has been a challenging yet exciting year for GrowTH. After ten years of running a rolling church night shelter, due to concerns around the spread of COVID-19 in communal spaces, the shelter was this season based from a local hotel. 

This was a great opportunity for GrowTH to try something new, and there were many invaluable lessons learned, which we will reflect on as we dream of the next ten years for GrowTH.

We were pleased that five shelter guests were able to be accommodated within our own housing project. GrowTH housing has moved from strength to strength since Nicky our Housing Manager took the helm. The future of the housing is secure indeed, thanks to a hugely generous donation of a property. “Those who honour me, I will honour,” (1 Samuel 2:30) is the scripture that has resonated with me as I have pondered on this staggering investment into GrowTH and our future.

I want to thank the wonderful staff team for their support since I became Director last year, our board of trustees for their wise advice and encouragement and our partner churches and volunteers for adapting so willingly during difficult times indeed.

We hope you will rejoice with us and thank God for His faithfulness and provision as you read of how He has used so many people in so many ways to bring light to the darkness and hope to the hopeless.

We love, because He first loved us.

Naomi

Night
Shelter

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy”

– Proverbs 31:8-9

"Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly;
defend the rights of the poor and needy"
— Proverbs 31:8-9

Different model, same God!

The same God that breathed GrowTH into existence in 2009, (read the story of how GrowTH began in our 10th annual report ‘A Decade of GrowTH’), is the same God that we put our trust and hope in, when providing a shelter for the 11th year seemed an impossible feat. Let us take you through the timeline of events of the last year, through the highs and the lows, which culminated in a fantastic shelter provision for 33 guests.

GrowTH story: Lukasz

I came to London in February 2020 with the hope of getting some voluntary work and improving my English. I really was full of positive thoughts and excited about coming to England and starting my life anew. Unfortunately, things took a turn for the worse with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of the institutions started closing and I knew no one to turn to for help. In order to survive, I started looking for some help at charities.

The whole experience of being homeless was of course very depressing. I lived a very isolated existence. I spoke to no one for weeks and felt very lonely. Being exposed to the dismal weather weakened me both physically and mentally. At some point, I started to be afraid that I was becoming one of the unemployables – people living in the streets without ever getting a job.

While being homeless my main daily task to occupy my mind was reading books. I used to go to a place called Wesley’s Chapel — a Methodist church — to read because it was an oasis of calm. There I met a volunteer from Cambodia working for The Whitechapel Mission.

Finally, after some time of frequenting the mission, they offered me a place in one of the hotels open for rough sleepers because of the pandemic. It was a great gift and the first step on my way back to normality.

I remember very vividly the day I came into the hotel. It was a cold cloudy day, but I was warm with joy that I had a place to stay. It was an amazing experience having a room with a shower and a huge bed.

I am a loner by nature, so I did not talk much to other people living and working at the hotel, but I was impressed by the commitment and compassion of the GrowTH volunteers working for us. Their devotion was a great example for me to follow: I promised myself to be a less asocial person. I knew that I should learn how to be more friendly towards other people and that doing even small things for other people could be a meaningful way of enriching my life.

After staying in the hotel for two months, I was given the opportunity to get a job at a Pret a Manger shop. It was a great thing to get back to work and to the normal rhythm of life.

My life has improved dramatically since I started working. I am full of hope to be an efficient worker at Pret and a friendly colleague toward the people whom I work with.

For everyone facing homelessness: the most important thing is to find the will and determination within yourself to overcome adversity. I have always found hope in the simple fact that this life is the great process of overcoming.

GrowTH story: Lukasz

I came to London in February 2020 with the hope of getting some voluntary work and improving my English. I really was full of positive thoughts and excited about coming to England and starting my life anew. Unfortunately, things took a turn for the worse with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of the institutions started closing and I knew no one to turn to for help. In order to survive, I started looking for some help at charities.

The whole experience of being homeless was of course very depressing. I lived a very isolated existence. I spoke to no one for weeks and felt very lonely. Being exposed to the dismal weather weakened me both physically and mentally. At some point, I started to be afraid that I was becoming one of the unemployables – people living in the streets without ever getting a job.

While being homeless my main daily task to occupy my mind was reading books. I used to go to a place called Wesley’s Chapel — a Methodist church — to read because it was an oasis of calm. There I met a volunteer from Cambodia working for The Whitechapel Mission.

Finally, after some time of frequenting the mission, they offered me a place in one of the hotels open for rough sleepers because of the pandemic. It was a great gift and the first step on my way back to normality.

I remember very vividly the day I came into the hotel. It was a cold cloudy day, but I was warm with joy that I had a place to stay. It was an amazing experience having a room with a shower and a huge bed.

I am a loner by nature, so I did not talk much to other people living and working at the hotel, but I was impressed by the commitment and compassion of the GrowTH volunteers working for us. Their devotion was a great example for me to follow: I promised myself to be a less asocial person. I knew that I should learn how to be more friendly towards other people and that doing even small things for other people could be a meaningful way of enriching my life.

After staying in the hotel for two months, I was given the opportunity to get a job at a Pret a Manger shop. It was a great thing to get back to work and to the normal rhythm of life.

My life has improved dramatically since I started working. I am full of hope to be an efficient worker at Pret and a friendly colleague toward the people whom I work with.

For everyone facing homelessness: the most important thing is to find the will and determination within yourself to overcome adversity. I have always found hope in the simple fact that this life is the great process of overcoming.

Who are our guests?

Click to reveal

Guests in the shelter

33

Men

25

Women

8

Average age

37

Youngest guest

20

Oldest guest

65

Breakdown of permanent
accommodation

Resettlement
outcomes

Breakdown of temporary
accommodation

UK

14

EUROPE

9

AFRICA

8

ASIA

1

OTHERS

1

The importance of church partnership

For an organisation or charity to succeed in fulfilling its mission there must be partnership! For GrowTH, church partnership is not optional; it’s essential. Our vision to see people transformed by God is only possible when the church, the body of Christ, is involved. The church’s mandate is to be Jesus’ hands and feet to a broken world; it is to be His very mouthpiece, telling the guests of the wonderful and unconditional love that He has for them. Simply put, the shelter could not exist without church partnership. This year, despite the pandemic, 11 local churches were able to provide volunteer teams to enable the night shelter to run, with more churches participating in other ways.

We asked a member of Christ Church London about his volunteering experience with GrowTH

“A few years ago I asked the folks in my church where I might go volunteer, and they kindly pointed me to GrowTH. I mostly wanted to connect with like-minded people, do something for others and for God. But I didn’t expect to learn so much. Since then, it’s become a vital part in my spiritual diet. I’ve found there’s plenty ways to practice what I learned about Jesus, and with practice it sticks so much better! There have been so many great examples to imitate. Whenever I am confronted with my shortcomings, I meet grace and kindness. That makes you relax and get more real. Every shift is a little different: Sometimes it’s almost like hanging out with a bunch of friends, and hearing the most amazing stories, maybe getting to share something. And sometimes it’s frustrating and sad, to see broken lives and no connection. Sometimes the answer seems clear but I have to stand back and respect other people’s choices. Seeing all that forces me to think hard about what’s important and what they need. And that reminds me of what Jesus did in my life. It makes me wonder what I need and what God wants to do in our lives, and how I can play my part. I learn so much from everybody involved, I get to see guests come out of poverty, and I’ve even made a bunch of friends around the city.”

We asked a member of Christ Church London about his volunteering experience with GrowTH

- Click to read his thoughts...

A few years ago I asked the folks in my church where I might go volunteer, and they kindly pointed me to GrowTH. I mostly wanted to connect with like-minded people, do something for others and for God. But I didn't expect to learn so much. Since then, it's become a vital part in my spiritual diet. I've found there's plenty ways to practice what I learned about Jesus, and with practice it sticks so much better! There have been so many great examples to imitate. Whenever I am confronted with my shortcomings, I meet grace and kindness. That makes you relax and get more real. Every shift is a little different: Sometimes it's almost like hanging out with a bunch of friends, and hearing the most amazing stories, maybe getting to share something. And sometimes it's frustrating and sad, to see broken lives and no connection. Sometimes the answer seems clear but I have to stand back and respect other people's choices. Seeing all that forces me to think hard about what's important and what they need. And that reminds me of what Jesus did in my life. It makes me wonder what I need and what God wants to do in our lives, and how I can play my part. I learn so much from everybody involved, I get to see guests come out of poverty, and I've even made a bunch of friends around the city.

Reflection from our advocate worker​​

I had the privilege to join a wonderful Spirit filled team as an advocate worker at the night shelter in January this year. As I didn’t know what to expect, and without much experience in the field, I stepped in completely trusting the Lord that He will lead me with every step, and guide and teach me everything that I need to know.  At times it felt a little bit like being thrown into deep waters but knowing that this is all Lord’s doing, I kept going and soon witnessed that nothing is impossible with God – so many prayers answered, so many people touched (guests and even hotel staff), so many tears and breakthroughs, so many priceless skills and lessons learned; endless growth. Working alongside loving and caring team members and volunteers made every day a true joy and more of a mission than actual work. I believe that everyone who was involved in GrowTH this year witnessed and experienced the true touch of God.

Then, when I thought my journey with GrowTH would end, God surprised me once again by opening another door as I was offered to join the team permanently as a housing worker. Here there are even more opportunities to impact the lives of the residents and to be the light for them. There are still so many things to learn but I believe God will do unprecedented things with GrowTH going forward, taking it to another level. All for His glory.

I would like to thank my amazing GrowTH team for making me feel so welcome and for being so helpful and all the wonderful volunteers and churches who were an absolute blessing. Also, those who prayed and interceded. We could not do it without you. A big THANK YOU. May God bless you and reward you all for your hard work.

Reflection from our Advocate worker​​

My journey with GrowTH is a true blessing. I see it purely as God’s provision in every way, starting from His perfect timing, the right people that He brought together and uncountable miracles that we experienced at GrowTH this year. 

My journey with GrowTH is a true blessing. I see it purely as God’s provision in every way, starting from His perfect timing, the right people that He brought together and uncountable miracles that we experienced at GrowTH this year.  

I had the privilege to join a wonderful Spirit filled team as an advocate worker at the night shelter in January this year. As I didn’t know what to expect, and without much experience in the field, I stepped in completely trusting the Lord that He will lead me with every step, and guide and teach me everything that I need to know.  At times it felt a little bit like being thrown into deep waters but knowing that this is all Lord’s doing, I kept going and soon witnessed that nothing is impossible with God – so many prayers answered, so many people touched (guests and even hotel staff), so many tears and breakthroughs, so many priceless skills and lessons learned; endless growth. Working alongside loving and caring team members and volunteers made every day a true joy and more of a mission than actual work. I believe that everyone who was involved in GrowTH this year witnessed and experienced the true touch of God.

Then, when I thought my journey with GrowTH would end, God surprised me once again by opening another door as I was offered to join the team permanently as a housing worker. Here there are even more opportunities to impact the lives of the residents and to be the light for them. There are still so many things to learn but I believe God will do unprecedented things with GrowTH going forward, taking it to another level. All for His glory.

I would like to thank my amazing GrowTH team for making me feel so welcome and for being so helpful and all the wonderful volunteers and churches who were an absolute blessing. Also, those who prayed and interceded. We could not do it without you. A big THANK YOU. May God bless you and reward you all for your hard work.

What guests said . . .

Referral agencies

Partnership is so vital to GrowTH! Not only with our churches, volunteers and supporters, but also with local organisations. We recognise that we cannot alone meet all the needs of the individuals we support. This year we added Tower Hamlets’ local authority to our list of referral partners and have enjoyed working together to achieve our common goals. 

Proclaiming Christ
in the pandemic

“But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?”

– Romans 10:14
“But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? 
And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him?
And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?”
– Romans 10:14

Click to reveal

GrowTH Story: John-Paul

What did you believe before you came to GrowTH?

Before I come to Growth I always had belief in Christ but many of times I thought he had forgotten me and more often then not I’d ask, “Why me? Why do I have to go through a tough life?”

What has changed since being in the GrowTH shelter

After being in the shelter for sometime and attending bible studies, and listening to other peoples’ testimonies, I started to ask questions, especially about the fruits of the spirit. After having it explained to me, shortly after I got a notification on my phone just saying about the vine of the tree and the fruits but I took it as a coincidence. But more stuff happened to me throughout the day that made me believe more in Him and that God was talking to me.

Listening to other people’s testimonies was a great help. Everyone come across as nice and friendly and some have left a strong imprint on me.

GrowTH Story: John-Paul

What did you believe before you came to GrowTH?

Before I come to Growth I always had belief in Christ but many of times I thought he had forgotten me and more often then not I’d ask, “Why me? Why do I have to go through a tough life?”

What do you believe now?

God is real! He talks to us in ways we understand as an individual and also as a group. Since then I have attended East End Church and met some really nice people, and people from all walks of life. It’s one of them places where you feel welcome as soon as you walk in. I’ve also attended fellowship meetings where my beliefs have grown even more. God is real. Christ is our saviour; He loves us all and if something you pray for don’t happen over night it does not mean it will never happen. Never say never!

How are you growing in your faith?

I still attend bible studies with the GrowTH team. We also watch a mini series on TV around Christ that I find really interesting. I read the bible still and it gives me even more faith. I find comfort when reading.

What has changed since being in the GrowTH shelter

After being in the shelter for sometime and attending bible studies, and listening to other peoples’ testimonies, I started to ask questions, especially about the fruits of the spirit. After having it explained to me, shortly after I got a notification on my phone just saying about the vine of the tree and the fruits but I took it as a coincidence. But more stuff happened to me throughout the day that made me believe more in Him and that God was talking to me.

Listening to other people’s testimonies was a great help. Everyone come across as nice and friendly and some have left a strong imprint on me.

What do you believe now?

God is real! He talks to us in ways we understand as an individual and also as a group. Since then I have attended East End Church and met some really nice people, and people from all walks of life. It’s one of them places where you feel welcome as soon as you walk in. I’ve also attended fellowship meetings where my beliefs have grown even more. God is real. Christ is our saviour; He loves us all and if something you pray for don’t happen over night it does not mean it will never happen. Never say never!

How are you growing in your faith?

I still attend bible studies with the GrowTH team. We also watch a mini series on TV around Christ that I find really interesting. I read the bible still and it gives me even more faith. I find comfort when reading.

Any final comments?

After living a violent life being involved with drugs and drug taking, being in prison…I thought I’d never turn into the person I am slowly turning into. All thanks to Christ coming to me and GrowTH. They are top people and as I’ve said before, they are second to none!

MY PRAYER

So when you’re feeling alone remember this; you are not, but Christ is with you and us all. God is turning me into a new person.

In the shelter ...

9 guests attended a Bible study at least once

18 guests had at least one faith conversation

16 guests received prayer at least once

In the housing ...

26 residents received a Bible

21 residents had at least one faith conversation

13 guests received prayer at least once

Reflection from Tom the evangelist

This past winter I had the privilege of being able to work with GrowTH winter night shelter from January to the end of April.  My role was much like that of a chaplain, where I was able to befriend guests that were staying in the shelter, talk with them about the Christian faith, pray with them and lead them in bible studies and discussions.

There were a number of guests over the winter period that would regularly come and spend time with me asking questions about Christianity and the bible.  Some of the discussions were so lively, with so many good questions where we looked at scripture together.  The guests that joined in always seemed to really appreciate coming together, talking and being encouraged by bible studies with themes such as “Faith during trials”, “Prayer” and “Salvation through faith in Christ”. Some of the bible studies would often go on longer than planned and we would all leave uplifted.  Early on during the shelter season I developed a good relationship with a Muslim guest who had so many questions and would come seeking me out to continue where we left off from our previous meet ups. 

All the guests that I interacted with always seemed to really appreciate that there was someone available to talk with especially since they were often alone in their rooms. Each day that I went into the shelter I would quietly pray for everyone staying, and for all the staff and volunteers as well.  God’s presence was truly present during the shelter season.

I feel really blessed to have been given the opportunity from Naomi and the Growth staff team to be a part of the shelter this past winter and to be able to serve in the way that I did through friendship, bible study and prayer.  I will never forget my time serving at Growth.  Though I am no longer physically involved with Growth I will always keep the entire team and the good work they all do in my prayers.

Reflection from Tom the evangelist

This past winter I had the privilege of being able to work with GrowTH winter night shelter from January to the end of April.  My role was much like that of a chaplain, where I was able to befriend guests that were staying in the shelter, talk with them about the Christian faith, pray with them and lead them in bible studies and discussions. 

Due to the pandemic the shelter was held in a hotel.  In one way this was great because it meant that the shelter was able to operate and support vulnerable homeless people throughout the cold winter.  In another way however, it made it somewhat of a challenge due to the fact that everyone was isolated to their separate rooms and there was not as much interaction between people as there normally would be.  Despite this, the social distancing and the facemasks, I was still able to connect with people and have one to one conversations.

There were a number of guests over the winter period that would regularly come and spend time with me asking questions about Christianity and the bible.  Some of the discussions were so lively, with so many good questions where we looked at scripture together.  The guests that joined in always seemed to really appreciate coming together, talking and being encouraged by bible studies with themes such as “Faith During Trials”, “Prayer” and “Salvation Through Faith in Christ”. 

Some of the bible studies would often go on longer than planned and we would all leave uplifted.  Early on during the shelter season I developed a good relationship with a Muslim guest who had so many questions and we had good debates about Christianity and Islam.  He would come seeking me out to continue where we left off from our previous meet ups.  There were other guests that I had smaller chats with outside their rooms and I was able to give them support by listening to them, trying to encourage them and offering to pray with them.  All the guests that I interacted with always seemed to really appreciate that there was someone available to talk with especially since they were often alone in their rooms.

Each day that I went into the shelter I would quietly pray for everyone staying, and for all the staff and volunteers as well.  As it was often quiet, I would walk up and down the corridor and silently pray for the guests.  God’s presence was truly present during the shelter season.

I feel really blessed to have been given the opportunity from Naomi and the Growth staff team to be a part of the shelter this past winter and to be able to serve in the way that I did through friendship, bible study and prayer.  I will never forget my time serving at Growth.  Though I am no longer physically involved with Growth I will always keep the entire team and the good work they all do in my prayers.

GrowTH
Housing

“This is what the Lord Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor”.

— Zechariah 7:8-10

"This is what the Lord Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice;
show mercy and compassion to one another.
Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor".
— Zechariah 7:8-10

Reflection from our housing manager​​

It has been a real whirlwind of a first year of working at GrowTH, with so much change and so much going on. But it can only count as having been a true blessing. I’ve viewed GrowTH from the outside for a long time, but it’s been an incredible pleasure getting to actually join in and see what God is doing in Tower Hamlets and in the lives of our residents!

Having worked far and wide in this sector for years now, it has been incredible for me that with GrowTH, I am able to combine supporting homeless men and women with bringing them the true hope found only in the Good News! At GrowTH Housing, it really feels like we have the opportunity (and the time) to tend to the residents’ physical and emotional needs through our support – whilst also being able to tend to their spiritual needs. And one of the most exciting aspects from the past year for me has been to creatively put on several different bible studies for residents who are either interested in Christianity or are passionately seeking.

GrowTH Housing has expanded this year to 15 spaces, and the residents are each offered bespoke support during their time in the project (which is usually up to 12 months) to suit their needs. It has been a year of really pushing GrowTH Housing to be as efficient as possible, which, combined with gaining an extra flat, means that we have been able to accommodate and support more homeless residents than ever before. With this added emphasis on addressing peoples’ needs in an expediated way, it has allowed for us to get some wonderful results; from helping to reunite a family, to resolving historic debt problems, to securing money, food, and furniture for those moving in with nothing. And we are just so thankful to God for His provision this year.   

Lastly, I would like to give a massive thank you to Rachel and Denzel, who both left the team this year, for their abundance of hard work, and to welcome Wioleta, who is going to help to push us onwards and upwards!

Reflection from our housing manager​​

It has been a real whirlwind of a first year of working at GrowTH, with so much change and so much going on. But it can only count as having been a true blessing. I’ve viewed GrowTH from the outside for a long time, but it’s been an incredible pleasure getting to actually join in and see what God is doing in Tower Hamlets and in the lives of our residents!

It has been a real whirlwind of a first year of working at GrowTH, with so much change and so much going on. But it can only count as having been a true blessing. I’ve viewed GrowTH from the outside for a long time, but it’s been an incredible pleasure getting to actually join in and see what God is doing in Tower Hamlets and in the lives of our residents!

Having worked far and wide in this sector for years now, it has been incredible for me that with GrowTH, I am able to combine supporting homeless men and women with bringing them the true hope found only in the Good News! At GrowTH Housing, it really feels like we have the opportunity (and the time) to tend to the residents’ physical and emotional needs through our support – whilst also being able to tend to their spiritual needs. And one of the most exciting aspects from the past year for me has been to creatively put on several different bible studies for residents who are either interested in Christianity or are passionately seeking.

GrowTH Housing has expanded this year to 15 spaces, and the residents are each offered bespoke support during their time in the project (which is usually up to 12 months) to suit their needs. It has been a year of really pushing GrowTH Housing to be as efficient as possible, which, combined with gaining an extra flat, means that we have been able to accommodate and support more homeless residents than ever before. With this added emphasis on addressing peoples’ needs in an expediated way, it has allowed for us to get some wonderful results; from helping to reunite a family, to resolving historic debt problems, to securing money, food, and furniture for those moving in with nothing. And we are just so thankful to God for His provision this year.   

Lastly, I would like to give a massive thank you to Rachel and Denzel, who both left the team this year, for their abundance of hard work, and to welcome Wioleta, who is going to help to push us onwards and upwards!

Housing stats

Click to reveal

Number of residents this season

32

New residents moved in 20/21

19

Residents moved out in 20/21

19

Residents move out stats

PRS - 9
Friends/family - 4
Shared housing - 2
Local authority/housing association - 2
Supported housing - 1
Relinquished - 2

Average length of stay

9 months

Found employment in 20-21

10

Men

25

Women

7

Youngest resident

21

Oldest resident

60

Average age

37

GrowTH story: Barry

Barry has been in and out of homelessness over the past several years, after first coming to the GrowTH night shelter back in 2013 and then again in 2017. “The shelter was good. Somewhere safe to spend the night. Otherwise, I’d be sleeping on the buses or at Heathrow Airport.” Struggling with finances and employment for years, he has cycled in and out of homelessness – “I would find a job and then I would lose it somehow. I struggle with money when I’m not in work.” He most recently found himself homeless, “through a redundancy from my work as a courier last year. Eventually the arrears became too much. I couldn’t sort them out and couldn’t find another job in time.”

Thankfully, “I knew of GrowTH from before,” and he was able to reach out to his advocate worker from his time in the shelter. The timing was tough though, as the shelter wasn’t yet open, and so he was directed to the housing project, where he was accepted. “I was desperate. I have been to GrowTH before, and Paul recognised me. And I met everyone else, and you were genuine in your offer of help.”

GrowTH story: Barry

Barry has been in and out of homelessness over the past several years, after first coming to the GrowTH Night Shelter back in 2013 and then again in 2017. “The shelter was good. Somewhere safe to spend the night. Otherwise, I’d be sleeping on the buses or at Heathrow Airport.” Struggling with finances and employment for years, he has cycled in and out of homelessness – “I would find a job and then I would lose it somehow. I struggle with money when I’m not in work.” He most recently found himself homeless, “through a redundancy from my work as a courier last year. Eventually the arrears became too much. I couldn’t sort them out and couldn’t find another job in time.”

Thankfully, “I knew of GrowTH from before,” and was able to reach out to his Advocate Worker from his time in the Shelter. The timing was tough though, as the Shelter wasn’t yet open, and so he was directed to the housing project, where he was accepted and moved in when evicted from his previous flat. “I was desperate. I have been to GrowTH before, and Paul recognised me. And I met everyone else, and you were genuine in your offer of help.”

With a stable base, Barry has been able to address some of his longstanding issues; from getting into employment with Pret a Manger’s Rising Stars programme and working in one of their busiest stores, to going on a money management course, and getting a new tablet device to help him with his communication and job searching needs. “The support has been helpful, and you always ask how I am doing. You do care about the welfare of the tenants you accommodate. Other places are not always the same.”

He has also loved the social side of being in the project. Most events usually end up with him as the life and soul of the party! He has been found at the communal flat enjoying barbeques, playing chess against staff, and even jamming on his electric guitar, saying “I have met some real friends here. I’ve learned how to respect the tenancy, the neighbours, how to live with different people, strangers, and then they become friendships. It’s been a learning experience.”

Barry continues to join us weekly to watch episodes of The Chosen, and for a Bible Study with other residents, which he loves and contributes to. “GrowTH have helped me before. They came to my rescue. It is amazing. I understand what is behind you helping strangers. Because this is what Jesus does.”

Looking to the future, Barry reports “I’ve become more optimistic, and hopefully more responsible. And managing what I have. And being more grateful,” and that “It feels like I’ve been given another chance.” Barry remains in the housing project for now and will be looking to move on into more permanent accommodation towards the end of the year.

With a stable base, Barry is starting to address some of his longstanding issues. He has signed up to a money management course, and secured a new tablet device from a local charity to help him with his communication and job searching needs. “The support has been helpful, and you always ask how I am doing. You do care about the welfare of the tenants you accommodate. Other places are not always the same.”

He has also loved the social side of being in the project. Most events usually end up with him as the life and soul of the party! He has been found at the communal flat enjoying barbeques, playing chess against staff, and even jamming on his electric guitar, saying, “I have met some real friends here. I’ve learned how to respect the tenancy, the neighbours, how to live with different people, strangers, and then they become friendships. It’s been a learning experience.”

Barry continues to join us weekly to watch episodes of The Chosen, and for a bible study with other residents, which he loves and contributes to. “GrowTH have helped me before. They came to my rescue. It is amazing. I understand what is behind you helping strangers. Because this is what Jesus does.”

Looking to the future, Barry reports, “I’ve become more optimistic, and hopefully more responsible. And managing what I have. And being more grateful.”

Barry remains in the housing project for now and will be looking to move on into more permanent accommodation towards the end of the year.

Community

We have always known how important it is to have community and a support network around the residents as they attempt to rebuild their lives and futures; but it has become more apparent during lockdown just how vital this is.  Below are some of the ways we have tried to build a sense of community among the residents this year.

“I feel I have had a small family here.” (Sakib, GrowTH Housing resident Jan 2020 – April 2021) 

Click to reveal

GrowTH story: Sahan

Sahan (not his real name) had grown up as a strict and devout Muslim, only to be forced to flee his community and leave his family home when he decided to give up his faith – leaving him homeless, penniless, afraid and alone.

Sahan had hidden his doubts about Islam for a long time, but when he decided to share with some closest to him that he no longer believed – he was rejected and forced by his wife to leave the home they shared with their 3 children. He recounts, “It ended up after a couple of days  (staying at a friend’s place) that I slept on the streets and in parks, and under the bridges in the city because it was the peak of the pandemic. It was so hard…It was a new experience for me. I have been through many difficult things, but that was the worst thing that ever happened in my life. It was really bad.” He was also attacked and racially abused while living on the streets for just over a month.

He was told of GrowTH by Crisis. “I tried to ask for help from non-faith based organisations – those that help people who have a faithless position…but they don’t have the facility to help people like me. Fortunately, faith-based ones like GrowTH Housing, they helped me regardless of my position with faith…serving people without looking at their backgrounds or making any conditions.” 

He was quickly accommodated in one of GrowTH’s flats, and because he had no income since losing his job in the pandemic, he was supported to access the Food Bank, and to get his benefits started.

When asked about the first night in his room, he recalls, “It was tremendous, it was like I was in heaven, wow, truly, I had a roof over my head and a bed I can sleep in. It’s small things but they make a huge difference at the time. Cooking, a kitchen I can go and cook in, a toilet that I can go and use…small fundamental things. It was a tremendously huge help.”

He quickly settled in the flats, becoming an active and sociable resident, enjoying Zoom quizzes with staff and other residents, as well as attending each week at a virtual Christianity Explored course that ran in early 2021.  He said of these, “I found out with GrowTH Housing, and the team, that people here talk about spirituality in different ways, a different way that people can still believe what they believe but that people can be members or participants in gatherings and all that. Spiritually I want to continue with gatherings, and I see this as good.” He wishes to get involved in an introductory bible study that GrowTH runs.

After several months in the GrowTH Housing, Sahan’s elderly mother, who requires daily care, also became homeless a few months into his stay due to a bereavement. It became a race against time to find accommodation for them together. “With the help of staff in GrowTH Housing, after a long, hard, and difficult process, me and my mum were able to get in contact with a charity-based renting agency…and we were able to get a 2 bedroom private flat.” He continues to live there with his mother and is now looking to give back, and to help others facing similar struggles.

GrowTH story: Sahan

Sahan (not his real name) had grown up as a strict and devout Muslim, only to be forced to flee his community and leave his family home when he decided to give up his faith – leaving him homeless, penniless, afraid and alone.

 

Sahan had hidden his doubts about Islam for a long time, but when he decided to share with some closest to him that he no longer believed – he was rejected and forced by his wife to leave the home they shared with their 3 children. He recounts, “It ended up after a couple of days  (staying at a friend’s place) that I slept on the streets and in parks, and under the bridges in the city because it was the peak of the pandemic. It was so hard…It was a new experience for me. I have been through many difficult things, but that was the worst thing that ever happened in my life. It was really bad.” He was also attacked and racially abused while living on the streets for just over a month.

He was told of GrowTH by Crisis. “I tried to ask for help from non-faith based organisations – those that help people who have a faithless position…but they don’t have the facility to help people like me. Fortunately, faith-based ones like GrowTH Housing, they helped me regardless of my position with faith…serving people without looking at their backgrounds or making any conditions.” 

He was quickly accommodated in one of GrowTH’s flats, and because he had no income since losing his job in the pandemic, he was supported to access the Food Bank, and to get his benefits started.

When asked about the first night in his room, he recalls, “It was tremendous, it was like I was in heaven, wow, truly, I had a roof over my head and a bed I can sleep in. It’s small things but they make a huge difference at the time. Cooking, a kitchen I can go and cook in, a toilet that I can go and use…small fundamental things. It was a tremendously huge help.”

He quickly settled in the flats, becoming an active and sociable resident, enjoying Zoom quizzes with staff and other residents, as well as attending each week at a virtual Christianity Explored course that ran in early 2021.  He said of these, “I found out with GrowTH Housing, and the team, that people here talk about spirituality in different ways, a different way that people can still believe what they believe but that people can be members or participants in gatherings and all that. Spiritually I want to continue with gatherings, and I see this as good.” He wishes to get involved in an introductory bible study that GrowTH runs.

After several months in the GrowTH Housing, Sahan’s elderly mother, who requires daily care, also became homeless a few months into his stay due to a bereavement. It became a race against time to find accommodation for them together. “With the help of staff in GrowTH Housing, after long, hard, and difficult process, me and my mum weere able to get in contact with a charity based renting agency…and we were able to get a 2 bedroom private flat.” He continues to live there with his mother and is now looking to give back, and to help others facing similar struggles.

Finances

*In addition to this, an extremely generous donor gifted GrowTH a property, to be used within GrowTH Housing. 

**Exceptional funding to open a COVID-19 safe shelter.

There are so many people to thank for supporting GrowTH financially.
Many of those are individuals who would prefer to remain anonymous! We are so unbelievably grateful to you.

The following are trusts and foundations that we would like to publicly thank:

Alexandra Trust

Archer Trust

Calypso Browning Trust

East London Nursing Trust

Golden Stable Charitable Trust

The Grace Trust

Mary Baker Charity

Northwick Trust

Porters Trust

Mrs Smith & Mount Trust

We must also recognise in particular this season the input of Housing Justice, Homeless Link and MHCLG which arranged the necessary funding to meet the huge costs of providing self-contained accommodation.
We are extremely grateful for your support in this difficult year.

Fundraising

Unsurprisingly, fundraising income took a significant hit at the height of the pandemic, with a drop of over 60%.

However, we were brought some Christmas cheer by the Sing Tower Hamlets choir, who raised a whopping £5,534 through their online Christmas concert, led by the very talented Leanne Sedin. (Thanks too, to Deutsche Bank for their generous match funding).  Enjoy this version of “Put A Little Love In Your Heart”, from the Sing Tower Hamlets’ virtual choir.

We are so grateful to Leanne and the choir for finding a new way to support GrowTH during such a crisis. 

Thanks also to partner churches that supported us in their Christmas collections, such as St Anne’s Limehouse and St Helen’s Bishopsgate. We appreciate you!

We are always amazed at the lengths our supporters go, to raise money for GrowTH. Will you be one of them? Why not consider joining an event such as our annual Sleep Out or alternatively chat to us about an idea you have.  Click below to find out more.

Thank you

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Volunteers served in the shelter
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Churches we partnered with
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Breakfast packs given out

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Like what we do? Help us to continue the work and become a regular giver.

We would like to take a moment to reflect and honour the life of Dave Penman, a keen and key volunteer for GrowTH. Dave sadly passed away just before the night shelter opened. Despite the pandemic, Dave and his wife Anne were ready and willing to serve the shelter guests once again. Dave’s heart and commitment to the homeless of Tower Hamlets was exemplary.  We are so thankful for all the years he tirelessly served and shared the love of Christ to those in need.

‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.‘’ (Matthew 25:40)