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It has only existed since October 2011, but it has formed a community and made a huge difference to many lives. Ian Weinfass spoke to some of those who turned to the Hope for Havering Night Shelter for assistance.

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“Hope for Havering got me to where I am today,” says Tony Bennett, proudly.

In and of trouble for “most of his life” Tony was a cocaine and cannabis addict who stole so he could afford drugs.

Earlier this year the 28-year-old was sent to prison.

He was released in April, and was helped through rehabilitation by the shelter in June.

“It feels absolutely fantastic, I’m so far ahead of where I was now. They’ve really helped me out so much in six months, I’ve changed,” he said.

A few weeks ago Tony stood up in front of the congregation at the Trinity Methodist Church, Angel Way, to apologise for stealing from them last year.

“I spoke in front of 30 people. I didn’t really want to do it at first, but it was only right. I was very nervous but prayed before and it turned out to be the best thing I’ve done in my life,” he added.

The shelter has helped more than 130 people find a place to stay temporarily, and also helps with rehabilitation and runs residential weeks away.

Its actual shelter moves to different churches around the borough at different times, and it has an office in North Street, Romford.

Founded on Christian values, the charity helps anyone it can.

David Tonkins, from Collier Row, describes himself as another Hope for Havering success story.

The 34-year-old budding artist had been homeless on and off for twenty years. Just over a year ago he quit drugs, and was put in contact with the shelter.

“I was there for about five weeks over Christmas and they just gave me support, which was fantastic,” he said.

“A lot of the people involved have become my friends. On a Friday night I help out now, I’m not out at the pub.

“There were 10-12 guys there at Christmas (2011), we got to know each other. It’s like being part of a little family.”

And it is the aspect of community which founder Kim Merry believes is the key to its success.

She said: “It has been a success. We get some of our people direct from prison.

“They’ve had a time away when they don’t want to make new friends, to get away from their old life, and they come to our community and we are their new friendship group.”

To make a donation to the charity text HOHA44 to 70070 or call them on 07951 702 777.

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