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Katy Ridsdill-Smith Interview

Volunteers and staff from GWNS at the 2022 Winter Sleepout.

Katy Ridsdill-Smith is the Shelter Director of Greenwich Winter Night Shelter who were one of the winners of the 2022 London Homelessness Awards, winning £20,000. We asked her to tell us about life since the awards.

What difference did winning the award make to the GWNS?

Well, first of all it made a huge difference to our finances. £20,000 is a significant amount of money. It allowed us to continue funding our Case Manager to help support our guests and facilitate move on. It also enabled us to launch counselling sessions, a need which was identified through focus groups with our guests.
And we were also able to invest in some of the softer skills that can make a difference: day trips and activities such as pottery, gardening, arts and crafts. These are all important for people’s wellbeing.

On a more technical side, the recognition of being an award winner has been really helpful. The London Homelessness Awards are well known across the sector and to be able to include our award in funding applications increases our credibility. As a result, we were better able to embed our approach to the redesign of an existing operating model as being good practice across the sector.

What are your future plans?

One area of need we see is people with no recourse to public funds. We struggle to move people on when they have no entitlement to benefits. As a charity, we are trying to address this need by launching a Hosting Scheme using our existing volunteer capacity. Programmes like these have gained traction over the past couple of years, particularly following the Ukraine resettlement programme.

We also want to develop a Women’s Support Service. We know that women are significantly underrepresented in homeless statistics and often fall under the category of ‘hidden homeless’. We also know that homeless services are often male dominated and this can be a challenge for many women. We want to work with our female guests to look at how we can address this.

And longer term we need to acquire new premises as a steppingstone to permanent accommodation.

What would you say to people thinking about applying to the 2023 awards?

I would encourage people to give it a go. The application process is very straightforward and much easier than a number of other funding applications. You have a single point of contact throughout and are supported during the process. The awards have been a huge help financially and reputationally. There’s nothing to lose, give it a go!

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