In the eyes of a child, all people are the same, yet the Police have launched a crackdown on people who "commit" rough sleeping and those found could be given an ASBO. It’s not hard to imagine why so many homeless people confess to not feeling like a 'real person’. It is shocking, but not surprising, that homeless people are dying much younger than the general population.
“Life on the streets is harsh” says Sam Hadfield, who provides support through Caris Boxing Club and winter shelters for vulnerable young people left in limbo by the state. He followed his father into coaching and has clocked up 25 years ringside, but a heart attack saw him fall into the “black hole” of depression. He stopped training and sold off his company. At a friend’s suggestion he began volunteering at the Caris cold weather shelter in Islington and immediately recognised how boxing could re-energise those in need. “It didn’t take long to realise what was going on,” he says. “The main thing was, if they haven’t got any interests, that’s when they get in trouble. I use boxing as a foundation to build trust with people. The most important thing in boxing is discipline and to be successful you have to listen. You might get a few people coming with an attitude but it soon disappears.”
The Caris Shelter is completely self-funded, relying on donations and volunteers. Sam believes that as soon as money is involved or you turn it into a business then you lose what it was originally all about.
Caris winter shelter provides a safe haven for those on the street between the bleak cold months of January to March and has even caught the eye of Buzzcocks musician Steve Diggle, who will be performing at the shelter this winter.
No shelters say “Shelter” on them in big letters, so how do those in need find somewhere to eat and sleep? "It’s mainly referrals” says Sam, “they are considered guests - its not a roll in, but if people do roll in and turn up we take their details to see if we can help them. If someone goes to the council and says they are homeless they refer them to us”. Sam says “we get self referrals, people phone up and say can I come down, they have a four week stint with us and then through our housing links we get them into hostels”
The shelter is beautifully set out, warm and inviting with flowers and table cloths on the tables and enough hearty food to feed the British Army. A group of lads are huddled around a laptop on the sofa laughing and joking about what they are looking at. Around the church everyone is smiling and Sam is greeting them all with a hug and joke.
There is one bedroom for the ladies and one for the men. In the corner of the mens' room is a piano with a homeless man giving a jaw dropping performance, like the work of a mid-Romantic composer, with a huge range of expression bringing tears to the eyes of the volunteers who have gathered around to listen. He played with a relatively firm tone throughout. Watching him play you would never have thought he had nowhere to live.
Have you ever seen a young homeless person on a cold freezing night and despite the fact they are wearing two pairs of socks, clad in shoes with no laces and with holes in their souls, with their jeans worn right through and wondered who that person is? How did they get there? Have you claimed you now that persons life story because you watched the film, ‘Where the day takes you’? Next time you walk down the street and see a homeless person, try and picture their baby pictures in your mind's eye.
Sam does not see things in black or white. He is a man who looks through the eyes of his heart, and makes a choice to change someones life. People who have probably never had a chance before. He’s the man who finds a stranger and treats them like his family. A man who represents and radiates nothing but love. He understands that these people cry real tears. He helps and supports the future of tomorrows boxing champs when they are down and half way out.
None of them are bums, they just have nowhere to live. Sam is a man who understands their code of honour.