Merton Homelessness Project grew from collaboration between local faith groups. We welcome the aid of volunteers and supporters of any and no faith. Our loyal and committed team of about 50 volunteers enable us to run the Homeless Drop-In.
In addition, with the merger of the Project with Merton Winter Night Shelter in 2022, teams of faith group volunteers, totalling around 360, together provide a vital service during the winter months to 12 homeless people. The Shelter provides emergency accommodation between December and March across 12 hosting venues.
The Homeless Drop-in’s work is led by the Manager and a small team of part-time support workers. These staff members play a key role in providing advice and support to service users, recruiting and supporting the volunteers, and working hard to maintain and develop constructive links with other local services which complement FiA’s work.
Grace O’Neill joined us as Manager, Merton Homelessness Project in Deecmber 2023.
Grace joins FiA with a wealth of experience as a social worker, undertaking risk and need assessments and managing care packages for adult clients. Most recently, Grace worked at Kingston Churches Action on Homelessness (KCAH) running their homeless drop-in, and previously worked at Kingston Wellbeing Service and the Kingston Adult Safeguarding Team. Grace has a Social Work degree from Kingston University.
Other team members:
Chantelle is Assistant Manager, Merton Homeless Drop-in.
Angela is a Support Worker who has been working at the Drop-In for many years. She gained her NVQ in Health and Social Care whilst with us. Angela was previously a volunteer at Merton MIND’s Women’s Group.
Maria, Agata, Krysia (all Polish-speaking Support Workers) and Viv, our New Opportunities Worker.
Ashling is the Co-ordinator for the Merton Winter Night Shelter and also supports guest of the shelter throughout the year based at the Drop-in.
Around 50 amazing volunteers work at the Drop-In. Some volunteers work in the kitchen and cook the meals. Others have a range of roles including greeting service users, helping with online form-filling, supervising the shower and laundry service, distributing clothing, offering companionship to service users, and joining them in activities such as bingo, chess or table tennis.
Trustees and Management Committee
The charity is governed by volunteer Trustees from a range of faiths and professional backgrounds. Trustees are also members of the Management Committee.
Bernie McAlister (Chair) is a Chartered Accountant who works for a major firm of accountants in London. Like the other Trustees, Bernie hopes to use his training and experience to benefit FIA. He became a Trustee in 2020, having been a supporter of FIA for several years, admiring the essential work it does and wishing to contribute more. For Bernie, the name of the charity says it all – he says it is great to see the wonderful spirit of co-operation among all the faith groups that support FIA.
David Reeves started his career in HR, before moving into Internal Communications via a spell in business management, which included helping to develop the BBC’s online services. After 25 years at the BBC, he became a freelance communications consultant in 2007, and has since worked with a variety of public and private sector organisations including HMRC, IPSA and Arup. David is a member of St Mary’s Church Merton, singing in the robed choir and, since 2020, Churchwarden.
Pauline Southgate spent the early years of her professional career in IT with IBM, then changed tack to combine work and family as a management and finance accountant for several small businesses importing from the Far East. She has fewer business clients now, and plays an active role as a Governor of Poplar Primary School. Pauline’s experience as Deputy Mayoress of Merton in 2005/6 brought her into contact with a wide cross-section of the voluntary sector, and convinced her of the need for organisations like FiA which reach out to the most vulnerable in our society.
Clive Douglas is a retired commercial solicitor with over 35 years’ legal experience, most gained in senior in-house legal roles, specialising in commercial and corporate law. He is also a qualified civil & commercial mediator specialising in commercial and property disputes, an Independent Person for the London Borough of Merton (which involves considering complaints made against elected Members), an unpaid director for a residential estate management company helping to run and maintain a residential estate of 45 flats in Wimbledon, and a governor of a primary school in Kingston.
Robin Goodchild is a retired chartered surveyor who has lived in SW19 for more than 30 years. He is a long standing supporter of FiA, which he regards as one of Merton’s most important local charities. He became a trustee so that the Merton Winter Night Shelter can operate effectively under FiA’s umbrella, as well as integrating the distinct services they offer to the homeless, so increasing their effectiveness. He is Treasurer of Trinity United Reformed Church, a member of Merton Citizens and Chair of the Friends of Haydons Road Recreation Ground.
Richard Rawes is a retired local government officer, including roles as Head of Planning at Camden and 12 years as Director of Environment and Regeneration at Merton, as well as interim Chief Executive. He subsequently worked as Executive Director of Regeneration at Southwark, leading their planning and property services, together with programmes for the regeneration of major housing estates. He also chaired the Webb Memorial Trust, a charity which examined causes and solutions to poverty in the UK, and was a Governor at Brooklands College, a further education college in Weybridge.
Caroline Ewart is a social worker with experience working with disabled people, those who have mental health problems, drug and alcohol users and homeless people. She is a trainer and volunteer co-ordinator who has most recently managed Richmond Foodbank, and previously was Senior Worker in Merton’s Homeless Project, Faith in Action.
Barry Angel is a senior HR professional, having spent 30 years in a number of commercial organisations from restaurants to hotels to property to finance and banking. Currently Barry is working for the amazing St Raphael’s Hospice in North Cheam as head of HR. Barry started volunteering at the FIA drop in between jobs in 2010, in the kitchen for a short period (having been a chef in former life) and since the inception of the MWNS has been a volunteer at the Wimbledon Synagogue venue.
Carol Graves was a senior social worker for Wandsworth Council, for 30 years in Queen Mary’s Hospital Roehampton with a special interest in disability, welfare rights, and housing. For around 12 years she has been an FiA volunteer and was previously co-coordinator for the Winter Night Shelter at St Mark’s Wimbledon. She has volunteered with many other charities, including CAB, the Simon Community, Crisis and Housing Justice.
Carol is a qualified aromatherapist who works every year for two weeks in Sarajevo with a humanitarian charity, and has also worked for a cancer support charity in London. She is a churchwarden at her Orthodox church (Greek Patriarchate) in Clapham.