Marathon effort to help people experiencing homelessness

published on 10 Apr 2018

The Salvation Army’s dedicated staff and volunteers are putting their best feet forward by running the London Marathon on 22 April in aid of homelessness services.

Olivia Schelts-Harris, Head of Business Development and Tendering has been particularly busy in her efforts to nudge towards the £1950 fundraising target — there’s been a car boot clear-out, ‘bake off’ cake sales and she’s even put her wedding dress up for sale — and all this frantic fundraising is on top of pounding the pavements in preparation for the 26.3 mile race through the Capital.

According to Olivia, motivation for running this year’s marathon for Team Sally Army comes from witnessing, first-hand just where the money she’s raising will be going;

“My first ever tender for Homelessness Services was for the Booth Centre in Southampton. Since then I’ve been out and about visiting Lifehouses across the UK and been absolutely blown away by the incredible work they do to transform people’s lives. I wanted to contribute in some way to make a difference - particularly when the numbers of homeless families and adults is rising. It’s great to know all our funding from this year’s marathon will be going towards caring and accommodating those who are experiencing homelessness.

“It’s been fun getting fitter and colleagues at THQ have been lovely, giving me encouragement for training over the winter in the rain and snow. And running around London every weekend, training has been a great way to get to know the city.

“Matthew Smith is running the marathon route with me. He’s the Service Manager at the Booth Centre and very inspirational. We’ve encouraged each other. He’s been great.”

Down in Southampton, the Matthew Smith in question is equally ready for his marathon challenge despite having suffered a setback earlier in his training; “I tore a couple of tendons in my leg but I should be OK for the day. I’m really determined. As long as I get to the finish line, even if I have to hop and skip to get there, that’s the main thing.

“I did the Brighton Marathon three years ago and I remember the first thing I said to my wife when I finished it was ‘I’m never doing another Marathon unless it’s the London Marathon’, so when this opportunity came up to run for my The Salvation Army and I’m a Salvationist it was just too good to miss.”

As a Lifehouse Service Manager, Matthew has a special appreciation of just what a difference the donations from fundraising activities make to the lives of his residents:

“With the changes we’re seeing in the funding of supported housing, The Salvation Army is increasingly paying for more of the care service users need while they’re staying in Lifehouses.

“Things like enriching activities, occupational therapy and chaplaincy are the extra edge that we can provide service users with. On top of that, there are re-settlement costs and future support costs, all of which are paid for by donations. If we relied just on council funding, it would be a very basic service.

“I know 95p of every pound people donate to HSU goes towards supporting these things, so that’s a massive encouragement for me to do what I’m doing.

“Five or six of our service users are going to be coming up to London to support us too which is fantastic. It’s something that they probably wouldn’t do normally and it gets them thinking about all the other things that are going on in life. All these experiences help them with their moving on into independent living. Who knows, it might even motivate some of them to give Marathon running a go themselves.”

Help Olivia and Matthew reach their London Marathon fundraising targets via their Just Giving pages.