The Covid-19 pandemic has taught us to live in a way that we’re not used to, a way that separates us from our normal day-to-day lives and social interactions with people. We’ve found a new ‘normal’ that means Skyping each other for catch-ups, working from the comfort of our bedrooms, and taking daily walks just to experience the outside world. What the Covid-19 pandemic has also taught us, however, is the struggle that others face. We’ve had the time to sit back and reflect, our perspectives changed by so much destruction to the world as we knew it, and we’ve wanted to learn more, reach out more, and give more help to those in need.
That’s where our interview with Gulen Petty from the 999 Club in Deptford comes in. Here at StatusCake, we’re huge supporters of the work that the 999 Club does and we wanted to share their story so you too can be inspired by their work.
Can you tell us a bit about the story behind the 999 Club?
The 999 Club was started by Irish French and Patricia Wyndham in 1992 after seeing homeless people drinking in their local churchyard. Back then it was just the two of them with a toaster, a kettle and a typewriter, making cups of tea and sandwiches.
Since then we have grown to a team of 16, including staff members who specialise in rehousing and homelessness prevention, finances and benefits, employment and education, and health and wellbeing.
We run our services from the Gateway Day Centre in Deptford. Pre-pandemic, our day centre was open for homeless people to drop by in the mornings and receive a hot meal, a shower, and do their laundry, and speak to our specialist staff members to get help with ending homelessness. We also ran a night shelter to provide emergency accommodation for around 25-30 people per night.
Since the pandemic struck we’ve had to adapt our services. Homeless people can make one-to-one appointments to come to the day centre and visit our team in a socially distanced manner, and we’re providing mobile phones, tablets and internet access to help people access support remotely. We’ve sadly had to close down the night shelter for now as it can’t safely run with 25-30 people sleeping in the same room, but we’re continuing to help people to find alternative accommodation.
What is it that you do at the 999 Club?
I am the Head of Fundraising, Partnerships and Communications at the 999 Club. I lead a small but mighty team, and we raise vital funds for the charity from individuals, community groups, companies, trusts and foundations, and local government. I also oversee our website and social media pages.
Why did you choose to be a part of the 999 Club?
After studying and working in the field of chemistry for 17 years, I knew I wanted to work for a not-for-profit organisation. I quit my job as a senior scientist and volunteered for a short time before securing my first role in the charity sector. The feeling of delivering services to people who are desperately in need was so fulfilling that I knew I had made the right decision. I progressed my career in the charitable sector, working as a fundraising professional with the hope that one day I would be able to work in a homelessness charity. My personal experience of sofa-surfing after my PhD and before taking up a post-doctoral role at university keeps me grounded and aware that homelessness can happen to anyone. Seeing more and more people rough sleeping and the social injustices young people face daily only made my desire to work for a homelessness charity stronger.
I am a great believer in small grass roots charities serving local communities to break down divisions in society and offer opportunities to people from every walk of life. The advice, help and support services the 999 Club offers to people experiencing homelessness enables them to fulfil their potential, whether by finding work or securing long-term accommodation. To continue working with and supporting them to reduce their likelihood of becoming homeless again is also something I totally believe in.
How has the 999 Club helped people since its inception?
Since its inception, the 999 Club has helped over 20,000 people to get help with ending homelessness. We help people with personalised, in-depth support, to tackle the causes of homelessness for good.
We help people to find accommodation and stay off the streets, including emergency short-term accommodation, supported housing for people with extra support needs (such as mental health or addiction), and long-term tenancies in privately rented housing. We also help people to avoid eviction and stay off the streets by advising them on what to do if they have trouble paying their rent.
We help people to secure the benefits they need to be able to survive. The state benefits system can be complex and difficult to understand and many people are not aware of the benefits they are entitled to. We assist people to challenge adverse rulings and accompany them to benefit appeals and court hearings, and we’ve won 99% of the appeals we helped our clients to challenge.
Without an earned income the people we help may not be able to afford to rent even the most basic accommodation, but securing employment can be difficult for people experiencing homelessness. We help people to build self-esteem, gain skills, achieve qualifications and ultimately secure employment.
We also connect homeless people to all the health and wellbeing services they need, including mental health support and help with substance use.
What are the 2021 plans for the 999 Club and what do you as a charity hope to achieve?
We are looking into the opportunities to create sustainable housing for the rough sleepers following a Housing First model by developing our building site. Additionally we plan to give ongoing support to people accessing these accommodations and offer further specialist advice and support services to people on the verge of being homeless to prevent them losing their homes.
How can people help you raise more money?
People can help us to raise more money by joining our 999 Campaign. We’re currently looking for 999 extraordinary regular donors who can donate 99p or £9.99 a month to the 999 Club. Donate here or call us on 020 8684 5797.
Other ways you can help the 999 Club is by donating any unused laptops you may have. As the 999 Club team grows and their desire to help those in need continues, their requirements for extra resources grows too. If you do have a spare laptop that you can donate to the 999 Club, please drop a line to [email protected]. You’ll be making a real difference.