Tech City is Five: Shoreditch homelessness charity is 50

Shoreditch is known for sophisticated tech work and wild nightlife, so it’s an odd place for me to teach basic computing skills to people recovering from addictions and homelessness.

The course may be simple but challenging and the outcomes can be amazing.

Mo came to our charity, the Spitalfields Crypt Trust, after years of addiction. After taking my IT course he was able to use social media to get back in touch with his family.

He hadn’t spoken to them for more than 20 years. He also gained some useful employment skills.

Working with people rebuilding their lives like Mo gives me a sense of fulfilment and a constant reminder that we all need a little help sometimes.

Working in the corporate world as an IT Consultant, I saw too many peers become addicted to drugs or alcohol.

I felt compelled to help those affected and re-trained as a psychotherapist to understand more about addiction and help make a difference in people’s lives.

I now run a counselling practice and work for addiction agencies as a therapist, as well as teaching people in recovery how to use computers.

To overcome the intimidation some people feel towards technology, we dismantle a working computer together, learn about the different components, then reassemble it.

I teach my students how to use Microsoft Office and the internet, as well as helping them to understand security issues around online shopping.

Many people drop out of school due to addiction issues so returning to a classroom can bring up a lot of fear and flashbacks of negative experiences.

Over time, and with a lot of patience, I see their confidence and self-belief grow and in turn that enables them to push beyond their comfort zone.

They begin to see possibilities of taking on more responsibility or even getting into a job – perhaps for the first time in their life.

If students here want work experience they can take a placement in Spitalfields Crypt Trust’s social enterprises: the Paper & Cup coffee shops or the Restoration Station – our vintage furniture shop.

Space is so limited in our training centre that our IT suite is now in the kitchen, which to be fair is a reasonable size.

Tech startups often begin with these kind of compromises but often graduate to something more flash over time.

Without that opportunity, over the years I have made the computer suite/kitchen into a fully-functioning training area!

I’m told Shoreditch has changed dramatically since SCT started in 1965 when most of the people that we helped were meths drinkers.

They were fed and given a place to sleep in the Crypt under Christ Church in Spitalfields. Today drug addiction is the major problem and we have many more holistic services to help people get into a lasting recovery.

We still run a drop-in for homeless people. Those who are serious about recovery can stay in our 16-bed residential recovery unit upstairs from the training centre and we have four supported houses they can move to once their recovery is stable.

Residents and students all support each other through a growing recovery community. This combination of services can truly change the direction of people’s lives.

And none of this work is directly funded by the government – it’s all paid for by donations and other fundraising activity.

To celebrate our 50th birthday, tonight we’re hosting a Sponsored Sleep-In #sctsleepin at Christ Church Spitalfields.

We’re also looking to raise an extra £50,000 this year as a nice birthday present. Could you help one of Tech City’s more long-standing residents ensure our most vulnerable residents have the digital skills they need to get back on track? If so, you can donate here.

Patrick Wildman is an IT tutor at the Spitalfields Crypt Trust, a homelessness and addiction charity based in Shoreditch, Tech City

P.S. If anyone out there has a some large computer screens for my visually impaired students, I’d be very grateful! And, just to be cheeky, we also need an office laser printer so that the students can print the projects they produce.