OUR HISTORY

Sanctus was founded by two philanthropists who remain Trustees of the charity. Fuelled by the seemingly growing numbers of homeless people on the streets, those in need of food and a warm day space and their own personal experience of homelessness, Sanctus was borne.

Over 13 years ago, in 2011, we began by offering free food to a small number of people in the evening from their commercial café in Broomfield Road.. Within a few weeks and following the closure of a local day centre, the decision was made to provide an all-day service for the rough sleeping community. The commercial café was closed and in 2012 Sanctus Charity planted it’s roots.

Sanctus Homeless Charity
Sanctus Homeless Charity

For a number of years, Sanctus’ survival was down to private donor funding. No one was an expert, and there was a quick realisation that homelessness is a highly complex issue, not solved by simply providing food and warmth. It soon became clear by chatting with our service users that wider support was needed such as advocacy, signposting, benefits support and extra-curricular activities.

One of the greatest realisations was the strength of the companionship and support created between service users by coming to the same safe space each day. Sanctus was creating vital networks of support for people leading solitary, isolated lives.

Over the years, demand grew and somehow many winters were managed in that small café space with thousands of home-cooked meals being produced. Our volunteers, services and the community around us grew, and we started to get a reputation of trust amongst the broader homeless community. The nickname ‘Mum’ for the Café Manager showed the level of affection for the Café.

Many of our original service users were being helped to move on and make better lives and opportunities for themselves. There are so many stories of success from that period and we often have people who come back to visit us from those days who have turned their life around.

Sanctus Homeless Charity
Sanctus Homeless Charity

One team member Emma, who is now our CEO, had a dream of creating a Hub which would offer support from a dedicated space, rather than from the Café with cups of tea and ‘spag bol’ flying in all directions. In 2019, 7 years after Sanctus was created, the Sanctus Hub was formed and now boasts a team of four offering dedicated support from both within Sanctus and a wide range of other agencies. The work that team one had undertaken for 7 years, had created an incredible amount of trust, relationship building and a broad knowledge base. The safe and comforting Café space is now very much the gateway to seeking support from the Hub.

In 2020 the world changed, the pandemic struck, and the vulnerable of our society were impacted and suffered more than any other. During this period two crucial things happened in Sanctus’ history and both again transformed the charity and started a new chapter.

 

The first was Sanctus being deemed an essential service despite our charitable status and we were requested to remain open to feed and support the vulnerable. The staff team were all happy to continue on, despite the country being in lockdown. We quickly adapted our style of working which one day included providing support to a newly released prisoner from our backyard in the freezing snow, clad in coats and masks, under a gazebo for 4 hours.

While the streets were empty, Sanctus continued to feed the vulnerable and even created, on a free basis like all Sanctus services, a food delivery service for those who had been temporarily housed in a local hotel. Sanctus was the only available route for food for so many during that period.

Sanctus Homeless Charity
Sanctus Homeless Charity

Additionally, a huge decision was made to move to new, much larger premises, close by again on Broomfield Road, three times the size of the original café with room to seat 60+, along with dedicated rooms for the Hub. This would also allow for many other organisations and charities to utilise the space, whilst providing key services to our expanding vulnerable community.

Alongside the pandemic, the building was secured and the funds were raised for a major fit-out which took six months to complete. The doors were opened in July 2021, and the result has been transformational for Sanctus and the community accessing our services. The Café and the Hub have grown exponentially and many other organisations and charities are using the building to create a safety net of support essential to maintaining independence, dignity and good health for the community of people coming through Sanctus doors.

The new building was desperately needed as service user numbers were growing month-on-month. More people are being fed and more people are being helped. The energy and cost-of-living crisis is driving more people into need, it appears that this pattern will continue for some time. That crucial decision made during the pandemic means Sanctus is always ready to help.

We employ a small but incredible group of people, including one of our ex-service users, who not only keep the charity running but are the familiar faces which make Sanctus what it is. In 2021, we were able to employ two people via the ECL Learning disabilities programme and both are proud to be key members of the Sanctus team. We also have over 60 dedicated volunteers who help us across the charity from assisting in the café and kitchen, helping to run events and offering essential inhouse services like professional counselling. Go team Sanctus!

Sanctus Homeless Charity
Sanctus Homeless Charity

We could not have had such a great impact without the help of so many amazing supporters who have been involved in the life of Sanctus and our many success stories. Everyone who has ever donated money, goods or support should be very proud to be part of our history. There are sure to be more challenges ahead but we are looking forward to what our future holds and going from strength to strength as we continue to enrich and improve the lives of our homeless and vulnerable community.