Sunday, 23 May 2010

Working the Streets of London - Egg sarnies and roll-up ciggies

Thanks to Lindsay Clanfield at Six Things for reminding me of my PAST LIFE. This morning I read Lindsay's post about Six jobs BEFORE TEFL. He called for blog responses from those of us who blog. I'm going to tell you about my most memorable pre-TEFL job.

Before my TEFL days I toyed with the idea of saving the world. I'd thought about volunteering overseas and had spent a fair amount of time trying to find a volunteer position when I stumbled across an advert for The Simon Community. The Simon community was founded by Anton Wallich- Clifford in 1963 and is dedicated to caring for London's most vulnerable  street homeless. The charity is based around the idea of a community and has paid volunteer 'workers' and unpaid 'co-workers'. I worked in the community for three months in 1998.

Life at Simon was hard work but there was never a dull moment. What I remember most about Simon is the lessons it taught me about people, life, homelessness and mental health issues. Here are a list of six memorable moments.

  1. 'H' telling me about how he'd 'done time' for torturing a paedophile.
  2. 'S' one of the kindest and most intelligent men buying me a book of poetry by Alice Walker as a leaving gift.
  3. Outreach work involving preparing egg sandwiches all afternoon followed by a 4am wake up call and van ride around London dolling out sarnies and a cuppa.
  4. Singing 'Waterloo' by Abba with my friend Sarah as we drove over Waterloo bridge with a van load of old homeless men.
  5. Watching a man's skin crawl with body lice and praying to God that he hadn't given me them.
  6. Trying to drive away in the tea van as some old guy tried to stop us by throwing himself under the wheels. (Luckily we were parked at the time)
Thinking back there are so many more memories about characters who lived and worked at Simon I don't know how Mr C sticks to his Six! The Simon Community is still an active charity and you can find more information about them and the work they do here : The Simon Community

Thanks to Lindsay for his inspiration.

If you are interested in Homelessness Sally Trench and Libby Purves wrote a great book called 'Bury Me in My Boots'.


  1. hi simons are BRILLANT...Why i say this? because i was steet homeless in london and used to use the street cafe every monday nite 6pm till 8pm ALWAYS THERE ON matter the weather,and most of all could have a good chat with workers,volunteers who did not patronise you,also stayed at simons shelter in Kings Cross,which has now closed...BUT YOU WERE THERE WHEN I NEEDED HELP..
    Simons the best..
    ask anyone who is street homeless

  2. Lovely post, Leahn - isn't it funny how sometimes we look back and remember the past with great fondness. Can't imagine you enjoying watching the lice crawl on someone's body but can imagine the smile of remembering doing something for others selflessly - I think it's that that gives life meaning. Thanks for sharing.


  3. Thanks for this, I'm honoured that my post influenced yours. Love the six things element too here (of course) and obviously I'm most impressed with the work you did there. Well done, it's something to be proud of.

  4. Hi everyone,

    Thanks for your comments. Simon does a great job. I actually think that I got more from Simon than I gave. Good times but mad times. Thanks for reading.