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Finsbury Park homeless project ‘brought me back to life’

Following screening of film about shelter, charity worker makes emotional speech at event

18 October, 2019 — By Jane Clinton

Sam Hadfield speaking at the Union Chapel on Sunday

A TEARFUL charity worker who suffers from depression and ill health said that working on a homeless shelter project “saved” him and brought him “back to life”.

Sam Hadfield, who was pivotal in setting up and running the Glass House Shelter in Finsbury Park, made the admission at an event on homelessness at the Union Chapel on Sunday.

After a screening of the documentary Changed Times, which catalogues the transformation of an empty warehouse into the temporary shelter, Mr Hadfield, who featured in the film, was visibly moved.

“I am a sick man but this has brought me back and given me life again,” he said as he began to cry. “I watched that film and saw my children and my grandchildren helping out and it makes me emotional. The good old days are not over, they are still here, we just have to find them. We were lucky, we found it for that shelter.”

The Glass House shelter

His heartfelt comments drew huge applause from the audience, many of whom were also crying.

He told the Tribune he has heart and liver disease, diabetes and depression. The father of two grown-up children and five grandchildren, who lives in Finsbury Park and is a caretaker at St Aidan’s School, credits “keeping busy” with helping him.

Following a near-fatal heart attack 10 years ago, Mr Hadfield, 56, set up the Caris boxing club at Pooles Park primary school, where homeless and vulnerable people receive free training.

Multiple organisations were involved in getting the Glass House up and running including Jon Glackin, founder of voluntary-run Streets Kitchen, campaign group Housing Justice and Islington Council as well as more than 200 volunteers from the area.

Jon Glackin, from Streets Kitchen, with Sam Hadfield and Mark Brennan, of Housing Justice, at the shelter

The event at the Union Chapel, entitled Shock to the System, included performances from the Museum of Homelessness, as well as panel discussions and Q&As.

Mr Glackin said the funding is in place to open another shelter but they had been unable to find a building.

According to Islington housing chief Diarmaid Ward, councillor for Holloway and executive member for housing development, who was on a panel discussion, the number of homeless in Islington was 47 but it “has since gone up”.

He added: “Ten years ago that number was in single figures, so something terrible has happened.”

The lack of social housing as well as cuts to mental health and drug and alcohol support services were seen as contributing to the crisis.

During the Q&As many people also voiced frustration regarding the number of buildings lying empty when there were people sleeping on the streets.

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