Christian activist: Graham Marshall
Graham Marshall looks back on 50 years of work with people struggling with addiction
When I was young, I experimented with drugs and got into trouble. After spending a year in rehab, in the late 1970s, I started volunteering for Spitalfields Crypt Trust and have stayed ever since. My first job mainly involved giving sandwiches and clothing to homeless callers at the crypt of Christ Church, Spitalfields, and talking to them. I worked at the front door with people still on the streets, and I loved almost every minute.
Inside the crypt we provided a supportive environment and an increasingly challenging programme for about 18 men with alcohol problems who came in straight from the streets or the local Salvation Army detox in Whitechapel. The Crypt started as a “dry house” for homeless alcoholic men. These were the most hardcore drinkers around. Cider, wine, methylated and surgical spirits were the most common drinks, in that order. This was back when Spitalfields was a big fruit and veg market, there was a fire 24 hours a day nearby, and countless places like derelict building sites where people could sleep, called derries and skippers. It was a hard life.
In those days, the Crypt’s resident population was pretty equally split between Scots and Irish, and we exclusively dealt with problems of alcohol. These days people come to us from all sorts of backgrounds and – while alcohol continues to be the biggest problem, affecting 65% of residents, 20% say drugs are the main problem and another 15% say that drugs and alcohol are both a serious problem!..
Graham Marshall is CEO of Spitalfields Crypt Trust which in 2015 celebrated 50 years of helping people in recovery
This is an extract from the February 2016 edition of Reform.