Anonymous funder allows homeless charity to double donations as demand increases by 22pc

The charity 999 Club provides emergency care to the homeless. Pic: Roger A Smith via

Rising numbers of homeless people have forced a Lewisham charity to increase its support for rough sleepers this winter.

The 999 Club saw a 22 per cent increase in demand from April to October of this year, with 94 more people using their services. As a result, they introduced a new winter initiative in which all donations given before December 5 were automatically doubled, using funds from a generous anonymous donor.

The donations will work to provide winter essentials such as sleeping bags, warm clothes, and hot food to Lewisham’s homeless population. Finding night shelters and long-term accommodation will also be a priority.

Thomas Neumark of 999 Club said: “Christmas is a time of year when people think of giving to homeless charities. It’s so cold outside and those of us inside want to share the gratitude of having warmth and a roof. One of the great things about Deptford is that people love their community – we are powered by community volunteers.”

Homeless communities shelter in the cold. Pic: Mr.TinMD via Flickr

Based in Deptford, 999 Club was founded in 1992 by Irish French and Patricia Windham after seeing homelessness in their local churchyard.

 “You just need to walk around Lewisham these days to see cardboard on the floor and tents and see that the service we’re providing is really important. It’s not just a meal, a safe space and a shower, it’s a chance for them to look for housing, benefits and jobs and sort out their ID.”

The charity has expanded over the years, opening a year-round night shelter in 2019. In 2022, 999 Club launched The Bridge Café, which provides a safe space for people who feel unable to cope mentally.

It also opened Lewisham’s only homeless day centre, following the closure of community outreach programme Deptford Reach, as well as reports that although rough sleeping is up by 60 per cent, Lewisham services have been cut by half.

Neumark said: “It’s a perfect storm – Deptford Reach is closed, rent is going up, the Home Office is evicting people from asylum accommodation within a week’s notice. There are so many pressures on people and sleeping on the street is the most extreme end of the housing crisis. Everyone renting in London knows the struggle.”

Over the next year, 999 Club aims to focus on the mental health of the homeless. Neumark said: “What we’re trying to do more of is work around mental health – we already have a GP and there needs to be specialist support for the homeless. [Mental health and homelessness] both go together in a really vicious way. If you’re homeless and mentally ill, it’s really hard to get appointments and medication so they need a specialist service.

“There will be a post partly operated out of the 999 club to help mentally ill homeless people. We’re recruiting for the post now so it should be open soon.”

Donations must be made via the charity’s Big Give site to be doubled and can be given here.

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