OUR STORY...How it all began
Highway House began with two homeless men, found sheltering in a shopfront.
“My wife Dorcas came across them on a Saturday afternoon during our community outreach and chatted with them and invited them to come to the church to talk to me. They came on the Monday with the crumpled leaflet she had given them stuffed in their pocket. They came in and talked about their needs (unemployment, hunger and destitution) and we responded by providing them with a hot meal three nights a week.
About a month later we were surprised when we opened the door to find 20 more faces peering in back at us. The men had invited their friends – other men, in similar situations, living on the streets and in need.
With the men having nowhere to bath, we soon decided to turn one of the toilets into a shower, so the men could wash, change, feel fresh and clean. The change in their confidence was enormous and soon the men were feeling more positive. They were able to go to job interviews clean and tidy and in turn they began to become more sociable with each other.
One particular evening after dinner, one of the men walked into my office with tears in his eyes and I asked him what was the matter. He felt so desperate in his situation that he was planning to commit suicide that night. Something told me he was serious and that if I let this man go, I would never see him again. In reaction to what he told I took an instant to decision not to go home that night but to allow him sleep in the church.
I couldn’t turn away the other men, just to let one stay. So after arranging a lift for my wife to go home, I spent the night, watching over them, unsure what to expect.
The magnitude of this small gesture propelled me to open our doors for men to sleep on the floor, every evening that we served food. These three nights a week soon became seven nights a week when the coldest winter in 30 years set in, in 2009.
However, our work has not been without challenges. We have faced threats of eviction and experienced opposition from authorities. There have been several points over the past 7 years that the very survival of Highway House has been in jeopardy. Yet we continue as strong as ever.
Today we have found favour with the authorities. We now receive referrals from the major hospitals in London: Guys and St Thomas, University College Hospital along with the British Red Cross, Crisis, the Refugee Council, Haringey council, the police, local churches and other homeless charities.
We have seen our alcoholics fully recover, get into employment and move into their own accommodations. The stories of the men are amazing, yet seeing them regain their life is one of the most rewarding experiences.”
Reverend Alex Gyasi
The Highway House shelter is home to 50 people at any given time. Since we opened our doors in 2009, over 800 people from 60 nationalities have been helped with shelter, food and counselling, along with the opportunity for much needed companionship with others. We also provide employment training, jobs fairs and internet access for job searches.
We help those who have fallen on difficult times in their lives and need a helping hand. This includes those who are some of the most disenfranchised in our communities and without our help, would simply not be able to access other shelters in London (those with no recourse to public funds). Many have misused alcohol and drugs and have lost contact with their families and friends. We work to help them rebuild their lives, rebuild their confidence and rebuild themselves.
Highway House is based in Tottenham, London and works with a range of public services to ensure we are able to offer the fullest support to our residents. We are open to residents 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and have no set time limit on an individuals stay. Instead, we work diligently with each person to ensure when they leave us they are ready to be independent once again and return to a full and fruitful life. In response to the amount of homeless women that have approached the Highway House and have been referred to us by other agencies we now have a shelter in Islington for women who have become homeless due to various adverse circumstances including domestic violence.
On 24th July 2017 we set up a social enterprise cafe in Islington called the New Roots Cafe. The aim of the New Roots cafe is to generate income to support the work of Highway House and also to create volunteering and training opportunities for our residents, build their confidence and provide eventual job opportunities for them. We give our customers the opportunity to buy any meal or drink of their choice for a homeless person. We also have a community space behind the cafe for training, exhibitions conferences & meetings for local community groups and businesses
In July we launched a report on the work of Highway House. The research conducted by the University of East London (UEL) has cemented the value of our work to individuals and to society and gives a SORI value of £5 that is returned to society and the government for every £1 that is invested into our work. This vital piece of research will help us continue to grow our services and support more people. The Deputy Mayor of London, Joanne McCartney, who attended the launch of the report, praised the work of Highway House and recognised our valuable contribution to helping the homeless in London and the findings of the report.
Please visit our website www.highwayhouse.co.uk