From Board meetings to barbecues: life as a trustee Our trustees play a vital role in our work. To celebrate Trustees' Week, Mark Fell tells us why he became a trustee and what he enjoys most about it. As a barrister, I have encountered some tough situations. I have also seen the limits of the law in dealing with housing problems, and the terrible toll they can take on people’s lives. The focus of SHP is on the prevention of homelessness and helping the vulnerable. This was why I chose to join SHP’s Board of Trustees in 2015: to use my skills and knowledge in a different way to my day job. My work has shown me the huge value of organisations that seek to tackle the underlying causes of social problems, and which recognise the complexity of the issues that can tip people into desperate situations. SHP’s approach means that people struggling with the fallout of overlapping problems like unemployment, substance misuse and mental health issues, can get the holistic attention they need. As a Board member, my role is to help oversee the management and administration of the charity. I go to regular meetings with other board members, where we discuss the latest developments in the organisation, plans for the future and challenges ahead. The diversity of backgrounds and experience around the table make these meetings a really rich experience. I was blown away by how well the staff interacted with the clients, how engaged the clients were with SHP and, above all, the fun and positive atmosphere. Even more rewarding, though, is when we get out and about to see what SHP is doing on the ground. All members of the board make regular visits to the charity’s services, and this is a crucial way for us to keep in touch with different parts of the organisation and one of the most fulfilling aspects of our work. It’s on these visits that we see SHP’s amazing staff at work transforming lives, and get to meet some of the inspiring people benefitting from the organisation’s services. One occasion in particular sticks in my mind. It was a summer barbecue at an SHP hostel for people with a primary mental health support need in Wandsworth. Over burgers in the sunshine, the clients told me how SHP had prevented or saved them from homelessness and how they were finding new strength to get on with their lives – one man I remember talked about the value of having a space he could call his own. It was wonderful to be part of this group of people enjoying a relaxed afternoon together. I was blown away by how well the staff interacted with the clients, how engaged the clients were with SHP and, above all, the fun and positive atmosphere. This positivity is central to SHP’s way of working – a conviction that, no matter what challenges they may face, every person we work with has the capacity to take control of their lives and to shape their own future.