People with lived experience of homelessness are walking, running and jumping the length of London’s Circle Line to raise funds to help other homeless and vulnerable people through the COVID-19 crisis.

More than a dozen clients from across our services are taking on the Circle Challenge, which asks participants to exercise the 44,774 step or 21.2 mile length of the Circle Line to support homeless Londoners through the pandemic and beyond.

The money raised will go to SHP’s Coronavirus Emergency Appeal, which so far has raised £205,000 to help to keep homeless and vulnerable people across London safe amidst the pandemic. By encouraging people to exercise in their living rooms, bedrooms, kitchens or gardens, as well as outdoors, the challenge is designed to allow participants to keep fit, boost wellbeing and raise money while observing social distancing measures.

Those taking on the Circle Challenge include Simon Idio, 22, who became homeless in late 2018 after his relationship with his family broke down. He was supported by SHP, which runs services in every London borough, and is now living in the charity’s supported accommodation in Lewisham.

Simon had been rough sleeping and staying in a night shelter when he was referred to SHP’s Young People services, which work with young people facing challenges including family breakdown, abuse or domestic violence. While living in one of SHP’s hostels, on World Records Day in November 2019 Simon leapt into the Guinness World Records by completing 68 jumping jacks in only 30 seconds. Now he is channelling his passion for fitness to help others.

Simon says: “I want to support SHP because they have supported me, and I want to help them keep other clients safe too. “I like doing cardio work outs in my garden so I’ve been doing the Circle Challenge by jumping, jogging on the spot and anything else I can think of to complete the distance while staying safe. Having a goal really motivates me. Exercise is really important for me, especially at a time like this when it’s easy to feel lost. It gives me a sense of purpose.”

The funds raised will help cover the costs of emergency measures such as providing isolation rooms in hostels and protective clothing for staff as they continue to provide a service in difficult conditions. Food parcels are also being delivered to vulnerable clients who are unable to get provisions for themselves and welfare checks are being carried out regularly to ensure that clients living in the community are coping while social distancing measures are in place. As people living in our hostels have no access to GPs at present, SHP staff are also carrying out physical and mental health checks, liaising with health agencies where there is cause for concern.

Simon adds: “SHP have been brilliant during lockdown. The team call me every other day to check up on me, so I don’t feel isolated. They also deliver food packages to me which has been so helpful because it’s helping me to stay healthy.”

Many of the Circle Challenge participants are engaged in SHP’s Sport and Health programme. This promotes the benefits of physical activity in improving peoples’ physical and mental health, social relationships and overall quality of life. The programme has established in-house gyms at SHP projects, provides accessible aerobics and yoga sessions, bicycle maintenance and ride-out clubs, boxing, football, fishing and table tennis sessions. It also aims to engage older people in physical activity to improve their physical and mental wellbeing, as well as helping extend life expectancy.

Peter Hunter, 74, is a client of our community-based support service in Islington. Earlier in life Peter studied at the London School of Economics and did a Masters at Cambridge, but after his wife and child were killed by a drunk driver, he suffered from alcohol dependency and experienced homelessness.

He says: “After that I never really recovered. I turned to alcohol and even slept on the streets for a few months.

“SHP has helped me maintain a tenancy and given me the opportunity to take part in lots of activities. I love attending exercise classes and a drama group that SHP runs.

“Due to my age and a recent Parkinsons’ diagnosis, I am quite vulnerable to coronavirus. I don’t usually leave my flat except to get essential items and to get a little exercise every few days. However, I am enjoying getting the steps in to complete the Circle Challenge. I feel great knowing that I can support SHP. “

SHP’s Head of Fundraising, Agata Elliott said: “As much of London works from home, our frontline staff remain working in hostels to support vulnerable people through this crisis and help keep them safe. We urgently need funds to help give them and the people they work with the support they need. More than 50% of our hostel residents have underlying health conditions and/or compromised immunity, meaning that they are at severe risk of harm should they contract the virus.”

Agata added: “At this difficult time, many people want to reach out and do something to help the most vulnerable. Our challenge is the answer - exercise is a great way to beat the Coronavirus blues, and with the Circle Challenge you can take part in your own time, at your own pace and either outdoors or in your own home, maintaining your mental and physical health while observing social distancing and staying safe. And if you can’t take on the challenge yourself, you can show your support for Simon, Peter and our other clients who are stepping up, by sponsoring them here. " 

You can take part in the Circle Challenge yourself by setting up a fundraising page here. Please email [email protected] for your free fundraising guide.

In late March 2020, SHP began working with local government and charity partners across the capital as part of a co-ordinated multi-agency response to keep the city’s rough sleepers safe amid the pandemic. 

In Redbridge we increased the capacity of our Ryedale shelter from 32 to 50 beds and opened a 62-bed hotel in the borough, funded by the GLA, for rough sleepers and people who were moving out of cold weather shelters across London. We also worked with three other London boroughs to place rough sleepers in safe accommodation funded by local authorities.  

SHP supports people across every London borough who are experiencing homelessness or are at risk of it. The charity has operated for over 40 years and supports more than 7,000 people every year.

We would like to thank our corporate partners Brewin Dolphin, BETC, The Value Engineers and 2CV for helping to realise the Circle Challenge.