Benevolent sanctuary for homeless faces grim future: Man and beast are welcome at a former London mission now run as a hostel. At least, until government funding cuts arrive. Marianne Macdonald reports

HIGH above the scurry of commuters at Old Street roundabout in central London sits the red brick pile of the Leysian Mission.

Built in the era of Empire in days of abundant marble and testaments to battle dead, its innards are now coated with linoleum and its faded glory houses the homeless. But despite the building's stern religious origins, St Mungo's Association runs this popular mixed hostel on City Road with an unusually benevolent hand.

It is tailored to what people sleeping rough in the Bullring, Waterloo, said they wanted when it opened 18 months ago: it accepts dogs, offers single rooms and expels violent drunks.

Yet it is due to close early next year when the Government stops funding for more than one-third of London's hostels for the homeless. This could jeopardise the future of its 45 residents. The closure results from the pounds 10m cut in government funding for the Sleeping Rough Initiative over the next three years: pounds 86m, compared with the pounds 96m given over the last three. Most of the cuts are being made by stopping funding to emergency shelters. The Government said this week cash would be redirected to permanent 'move-on' housing.

David Palmer, 20, from Essex, came to the City Road hostel after the owner of a Ford Granada found him squatting in it. He says he would not have come if the hostel had refused his cross- bred dog, Suzie.

Food is good and dinner only costs pounds 1. Apart from the dog rota (residents with hounds must patrol the corridors with a poop-a- scoop, bucket and mop) David spends time playing snooker, watching TV and playing tapes in his large room overlooking the roundabout. Dog food comes cheap from a butcher who gives him offcuts, and he can safely house his treasures: a Zippo lighter and stereo.

Dave Phillips, 24, speaks in a lilting Welsh accent. His journey to City Road began after the death of his grandmother in the Rhondda Valley. He now lavishes love on Sam, a terrier blinded by cataracts.

He likes the institutional charm of St Mungo's well enough. When it is cold, he can huddle under the duvet in his room, which is better than sleeping in a ripped tent in Lincoln's Inn Fields. Soon he will get a housing association flat; until then he likes the staff, most of whom do not patronise him. 'This is by far the best hostel I've been to,' he says. Most importantly, it would take his dog.

The hostel management is liberal; staff turn a blind eye to sex; give residents their own room and key; impose no curfew and tolerate swearing.

Mick Carroll, the housing association's press officer, said: 'We don't throw people out during the day, we don't stop them coming in at night, we don't evangelise or make them break rocks in the back garden on a spike as some did in the past.

'Every year we turn away 3,000 people from the doors of our 50 London hostels for the homeless. We certainly don't want any of them to close.'

(Photograph omitted)

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Lewis Hamilton walks back to the pit lane with his Mercedes burning in the background
Formula 1
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con
comic-con 2014
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

BI Developer - Sheffield - £35,000 ~ £40,000 DOE

£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client is...

Employment Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - Senior Employment Solici...

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Day In a Page

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride