A Lena Fox House-themed week

Lena Fox House in Bermondsey, London
Lena Fox House, Bermondsey, London. Photograph taken in 1996 while it was a homeless hostel for young people (16-26 years) run by The Shaftesbury Society.

This week has had a bit of a Lena Fox House (above) theme, as my former deputy manager, Dave Gibbs, was staying with us on Saturday and Sunday nights, and today former administrator and AGW/GWs David and Bev Meldrum are coming to visit.

Lena Fox House (LFH) was a homeless hostel run by The Shaftesbury Society between 1996 and .. erm, whenever it closed (early-2000s?). LFH was a long-stay hostel for young people aged between 16 and 26 offering accommodation, support and life-skills training to help people move into longer-term accommodation on their own. I loved working there, and loved the people I worked with and alongside.

When Dave Meldrum came for interview I was on shift. Our manager, Bob Bailey, came into the shift office to tell us about the interviews that would be happening that day and he laughed as he said,

“Gareth, there’s someone coming down from Scotland for an interview … you’ll probably know him hahaha what with you being from Scotland too.”

“What’s his name?” I asked.

“David Meldrum,” replied Bob.

“Oh, yeah. I know Dave,” I said.

“Hahaha,” laughed Bob. (He might have said ‘hehehe’, I can’t quite remember from this distance.)

Fast-forward to lunchtime and while we were sitting around the table in the main lounge the doorbell buzzer sounded. Wandering through to the entrance hall, which was only the next room, I opened the door. It was David Meldrum.

“Hi Dave!”

“Hi Gareth!”

That people were surprised might be an understatement. “Scotland’s not that big a place,” I explained “We know everybody!”

In truth, David was in the year below me at St Andrew’s University (The University of Scotland™) and so I’d seen him about for three years at various events (CU, Christian Music and Drama Society, etc.) and while he was taking a few classes at St Mary’s College, the Divinity School (then a Faculty).

David got the job, met Bev there and they were married a few years later. David is now a Church of England priest in St Stephen’s, Wandsworth in the Diocese of Southwark. They have a blog called The Meldrums.

And given that they’re coming round mid-morning, and it is now nearly 10:45 I’d better go and have a shower and get dressed! We had planned to take a trip over to see the house in Fife, not sure that’s such a good idea now. It may bring back bad memories of hostel riots.

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Gareth Saunders

I’m Gareth J M Saunders, 52 years old, 6′ 4″, father of 3 boys (including twins). Enneagram type FOUR and introvert (INFP), I am a non-stipendiary priest in the Scottish Episcopal Church, I sing with the NYCGB alumni choir, play guitar, play mahjong, write, draw and laugh… Scrum master at Safeguard Global; latterly at Sky and Vision/Cegedim. Former web architect and agile project manager at the University of St Andrews and previously warden at Agnes Blackadder Hall.

One thought on “A Lena Fox House-themed week”

  1. Someone posted a comment here yesterday, which was ENTIRELY IN UPPERCASE, and read like a rant. At first it appeared to be from someone who’d been homeless and had experienced terrible events. But as I read through it — and it was long, over 400 lines — I began to feel quite uncomfortable about what this person had written, for example:

    Not only don’t they contribute they:

    1. Endanger our lives by commiting and breeding crime spreading disease and drawing vermin by littering.
    2. Lower property values
    3. Businesses loose millions when customers avoid loiterers
    4. Clog up the court system by suing when we complain.
    5. Clog up the court system with their repeated offences, they have started homeless courts to ease the burdon on the court system.
    6. Distract the police. Law enforcement should be dealing with other matters.
    7. Clog up the shelters blocking people that really need help.
    8. Clog up hospitals with their various drunk and drug problems
    9. Clog up the social services, asking for money, food stamps and low income section 8 housing that should be avialable for decent poor people.
    10. Bothering people, begging. Ruining our quality of life
    11. Clog up and abuse the shelters, missions and other so called helpful institutions.
    12. Squating at every public and private building and service across the country and around the world.

    Only, their list ended at number 13 because they’d omitted #7 in their numbering. The rant concluded with the following list of ‘helpful’ advice:

    How you can help:

    • Tourist stop giving money we have to live here.
    • Locals never ever give money to any homeless person or Homeless organization church funded or otherwise
    • Oppose any public and private food handouts
    • Oppose any detox centers they don’t work
    • Oppose halfway houses they don’t work
    • Oppose missions they breed crime and become an instant ghetto
    • Oppose shelters they breed crime and become an instant ghetto.
    • These institutions don’t help and bring property values down.
    • No one wants these institutions yet we keep having them forced on us. Why?
    • Make sure your not giving to charities that enable homelessness.
    • Save your sympathy and charity for people with real issues like cancer, chronic disease disabilities, and disaster victims.
    • Help seniors that are not drunk and on drugs.

    So, I banned them and instructed WordPress to regard the poster as a spammer. I’m not a fan of censorship, but I do object strongly to spammers (I can’t believe that the post was carefully and thoughtfully typed for the first time into my blog comments form!!) and I can’t condone the horrible things that were being said about homeless people.

    I worked with homeless folks in London for nearly three years and the number one cause of homelessness in my experience with those with whom I worked was broken relationships. Our task was to love these people, build up their self-confidence and help them to get back on their feet. In my experience there were a number of people who caused real trouble and appeared to be pretty horrible people, but they were very much the minority, and often their behaviour was the result of terrible abuse and learned responses. We still tried to love these people as Jesus did.


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