The Homeless Fund: Ellie Goulding opens 24-hour women’s centre paid for by Independent reader donations

The Sanctuary becomes first project to offer round-the-clock support to homeless women in central London

Robert Dex
Thursday 11 November 2021 21:34 GMT
‘We need more places like this where vulnerable women can come and feel safe’
‘We need more places like this where vulnerable women can come and feel safe’ (Matt Writtle)

Singer Ellie Goulding has helped open central London’s first 24-hour homeless women’s drop-in centre, which was paid for by generous donations from Independent readers.

The Sanctuary in Marylebone offers a range of services from medical care to job skills as well as legal advice and emergency beds for women with nowhere to go.

Its opening on Thursday marked the culmination of The Independent’s Homeless Fund, which was launched by shareholder Evgeny Lebedev and run in association with sister title the Evening Standard.

For the last two years it has supported homelessness projects in Britain, including by funding a new women’s development unit, psychotherapy support for the homeless and the training of charity staff on how to deal with domestic abuse.

It also supported a homeless women’s action group and financed the creation of the London Homeless Collective, which for the first time has brought the capital’s homelessness charities together to share expertise.

Goulding, who is patron of the Marylebone Project, which runs the Sanctuary, said: “We need more places like this where vulnerable women can come and feel safe and feel like they have a place to rebuild and re-skill and get themselves back together.

Ellie Goulding is patron of the Marylebone Project, which runs the Sanctuary (Matt Writtle)

“As someone who believes in the power of women I jumped at the chance to come here and was just blown away by the generosity and time the staff give these women and the activities and care and love they get.

“You can feel the calm and that it is a safe place to be.”

The project has been able to offer the round-the-clock service due to our Homeless Fund, which included a generous financial donation made by Barclays to enable the expansion to occur.

The centre was in part funded by donations to the Independent’s Homeless Fund (Matt Writtle)

Hannah Bernard, the head of business banking at Barclays, attended the opening ceremony and said that seeing the expanded drop in centre in operation had been “a humbling experience”.

She said: “It’s hard to imagine the challenges they have faced, which have only been exacerbated during the pandemic.

“The visit has made me immensely proud we have partnered with the Independent’s Homeless Fund to support this fantastic centre through our £100 million Covid-19 Community Aid Package. I’d like to thank all of those at The Sanctuary who are working tirelessly to support women in the local community.”

Ellie Goulding with Hannah Bernard from Barclays (Matt Writtle)

The Sanctuary’s general manager Phillippa Middleton said being able to offer a round-the-clock service was vital for homeless women, who previously had no specialist centre to go during night-time if they were looking for support.

She said: “Homelessness and domestic violence happen at any time of the day or night.

“What we were was 9am to 12.30 and Monday to Friday. But it can happen at any time to anyone. Now someone can walk in at any hour and get help and that’s what makes it unique.”

Ellie Goulding with Peter Rouch, head of the Marylebone Project (Matt Writtle)

The Homeless Fund was launched at Christmas 2019. It went on to raise over £1m due to support from Evening Standard and Independent readers, which has since been distributed to homeless causes.

Find out how you can support the Sanctuary at the Marylebone Project by going to

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