Acton Homeless Concern was founded by the priests of the Parish of our Lady of Lourdes in Acton as a practical response to the needs and problems of a large community of homeless people sleeping rough on local streets.
Acton Homeless Concern was additionally providing food, clothes and access to showers and other hygiene facilities for approximately 200 clients and the charity was serving 1,000 meals a month.
Partnerships were formed with all relevant health professionals so that clients could access the services of doctors, dentists and opticians together with referrals for emergency housing, benefits advice and drug and alcohol counselling.
The charity changed its name and constitution and became a company limited by guarantee. We were serving approximately 120 lunches every day and this was deemed to be working to full capacity. In 1989 it was between 40 and 50 so in just six years we had seen a 300% increase in the number of meals being served.
Kitchen facilities at Emmaus house were deemed inadequate to cope with the number of clients attending each day for food. A fundraising campaign was launched and £40,000 was raised to bring the kitchen up to restaurant standards.
A second centre was provided for the late afternoon and early evening when Emmaus House was closed. The parish of Our Lady of Lourdes purchased the Damien Centre with a loan from the Diocese of Westminster.
We planned for the Damien Centre to be open for four hours a day with a probable attendance of between 20 and 30 clients. By 2003, this number had increased to a high of 105 daily, so funding was secured for a second project worker and opening hours were increased to 10 hours. The building was also refurbished.
We received a legacy of £50,000, which led to us launching a fundraising campaign to enable the purchase of the Damien Centre. Staff and trustees raised a further £50,000 and together with a £35,000 mortgage, the purchase was completed in 2006. An annual golf day organised by our great friends Tommy and Ciaran raised enough to pay for one member of staff's salary for an entire year; something they have continued to do every year since (following in the footsteps of the formidable Patsy McCulloch who organised it for the first few years).
A big fund-raising year by some volunteers enabled us to purchase new kitchen and washing facilities at Emmaus House and we held our first annual fund-raising Quiz Night, a much-loved fixture in local people's diaries ever since!
Marked the charities 25th anniversary with a 400% increase in clients and the subsequent delivery of services. We have continued to hold an annual volunteer party as a small way of thanking the army of people who have worked tirelessly over the years to make AHC what it is today: a beacon of hope for hundreds of people every day.
I'm 61 years old now and live in a bed and breakfast in Shepherds Bush. I've been there about nine months.
I did quite well at school. When I left I went straight in to the Army in the Parachute Regiment. I know there is the belief that a lot of veterans end up on the streets because they can't cope with the fallout from combat but that's not my personal experience. I found that in the elite regiments certainly there was support there. Worked on the rigs for several years and then as an electronics inspector for a defence firm. I spent a lot of time away from home while my two children were growing up.
What changed? I changed. My last job was as a chauffeur. Worked very long hours and if I got home early I would hit the drink. Hard. It was becoming obvious to me that I was half drunk on the job. Whatever problems I have ever had I have always been morally responsible. I knew I had to make a choice between driving and drinking. I chose drinking. That was the start of the sharp decline. I was 52.
I have not had a home since the day me and my wife separated. Spent some time in a residential care home and also living on the streets. Other times have been in hostels or Bed and Breakfasts. I didn't feel I deserved a home.
Was in rehab years ago. Residential for three weeks and based on the twelve steps. Stopped drinking for six months. Now I drink moderately once a fortnight.
I first came to Acton Homeless Concern and used the services before I went to a residential home. There were no services for people on the streets in Ascot where I was. You get very good at avoiding people who are dangerous and can't take your guard down at all. I've been assaulted four or five times.
I write a journal now. It's my therapy. Sharing is the best thing. You can make friends here. Before I came to Acton Homeless Concern I wouldn't have dreamed of speaking to half the people that I do and I like helping the other people.
A lot of people like me find it hard to occupy themselves all day. It's good to have a place to come. Everyone needs some company, to feel part of the world, to engage with others.
I had two children, two boys. I couldn't have any more because I was in the hospital for six months before my youngest was born. Lost my eldest boy to cancer when he was forty nine. I've just the one now.
My husband retired and he turned to drinking. I think it was the boredom. He had an accident seven years ago in Acton and he's been in a nursing home since. He can do some things for himself, he can shave alright. Sometimes you can have a conversation with him. He's not able to follow all the time. I don't think he'll come out. I go up there three times a week and see him.
It was about four years ago I started helping here. I was feeling lonely and someone suggested to me they needed help here to sort through the clothes people had given in for the women and children.
I come in on the Tuesday to sort through the boxes and on Wednesday I'm upstairs with the women giving them what clothes they need. I find they are always nice, the women. I find people treat you the way you treat them.
They're all lovely upstairs and I love coming. It's been company for me coming here.
I'll be going to the Christmas party definitely. I've got some things to donate. Presents. I'm happy to give them. I say the more you have the more you think you need. I don't need to keep these things.