A view of the SCT community gardens behind Shoreditch Church.
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Spitalfields Crypt Trust: using social media to support homelessness and addiction

How East End charity Spitalfields City Trust is using social media to stay relevant to GenZ and teach the world about mental health.

No matter where you are in East London, you’re probably not too far from a Spitalfields Crypt Trust (SCT) charity shop.

First established in 1965, the homelessness and addiction charity began as a soup kitchen and night shelter for homeless men, working from the crypt of Christ Church in Whitechapel. Now, they have eight charity shops and two social enterprises dispersed across the East End.

Taking advantage of the growing technological age, you can find them on every social media platform, from sharing vintage clothes on Instagram to creating educational videos on TikTok. 

For the SCT, having a presence on these platforms is a vital way for them to connect with the local community. As a charity that doesn’t receive government funding, they see the importance of utilising its online presence to gain the support of community members and ultimately help more people in need of recovery. 

Becoming the Spitalfields Crypt Trust

Fifty-six years ago, the then vicar of Christ Church opened up the doors of his church’s crypt to local men in the area who were homeless and struggling with alcohol addiction. 

Since then, the SCT Hub has moved its base to Shoreditch High Street and continues to evolve its services today.

Currently, they run a residential recovery hostel, a supported housing programme, a Training and Development centre, a Housing First project, drop-in facilities for homeless people, all alongside their eight charity shops and two social enterprises. 

Despite suffering setbacks due to the lockdowns of the pandemic, their statistics for men experiencing relapse dropped from 40% to 33%, and the rate of six months in recovery grew from 38% to 48%.

You may have visited one of their social enterprises called Paper & Cup, a coffee and charity shop nestled across their community gardens behind Shoreditch Church. The storefront is fashioned in the SCT colours of white and electric blue, inviting passersby to enjoy a hot cup of joe as they browse through the aisles of donated vintage clothing. 

At their second enterprise, Restoration Station, they repair and restore vintage furniture and items from the 1950s, 60s and 70s, and sell them at an affordable price. Here, the people in recovery from drink and drug addictions also learn woodwork and upholstery skills.

Both social enterprises play an important role in the rehabilitation of the people they help. They provide a friendly and accessible working environment, all the while raising vital funds to keep their services available.

Staying connected through social media

Utilising their online presence has become an important way for the SCT to continue their work. This is mainly accomplished through using their social media platforms to interact with community members, finding people who may need their services and educating the local community about their cause.

When you have a browse through their main Instagram account, you can expect to find feel-good aesthetic pictures of the community gardens, pictures of their classes in action, and updates on the daily goings-on at the SCT headquarters. 

But their presence exceeds Instagram. You can find them on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, TikTok, and even Depop, selling their vintage donations by tapping into the growing thrift store shopping wave.

While their members in recovery go through coaching and lessons to rehabilitate their lives, the SCT uses social media to educate the average person about homelessness and addiction, as well as the people who may need help.

One key platform where they accomplish this is on their TikTok account, making them one of the first charities in East London to have a presence on this platform. By using their account, they create videos covering mental health, homelessness, addiction and recovery.

TikTok has been widely recognised for the mental health content that is shared on the platform. The ‘mental health’ hashtag alone currently has 28.7 billion views, and the ‘learn on Tik Tok’ hashtag has 266.3 billion views.

One of the SCT’s popular videos on TikTok has been the educational video they shared on SWEP – the severe weather emergency protocol. When watching the video, viewers can hear the strumming of a guitar playing in the background, creating a soulful and reflective ambience as they read about what the SWEP protocol is. 

The SWEP protocol allows members of the public to report on people sleeping on the streets during harsh weather conditions. Once it is activated, this means that people who are living on the streets are entitled to emergency accommodation. Following this, provisions will be provided by local councils and local authorities to ensure homeless people are taken care of. 

Beyond their educational content, you can also find gems of fashion goods that were donated to their charity shops. 

The SCT Shops Instagram account resembles a vibrant clothing catalogue, featuring pictures from their charity shops and photoshoots for their conscious clothing online store.

Recently, the SCT launched their Online Charity Shop, intended to make shopping more accessible after their in-person stores suffered a loss due to the lockdowns caused by the pandemic. 

On the website, you can find second-hand designer clothes ranging from Ted Baker, Saint Laurent, Burberry and more. For those without a designer fashion taste, you can also find goods from your favourite high street brands such as & Other Stories and Mango. 

Their Shoreditch charity shop is a stone’s throw away from the vintage markets of Brick Lane, one of the popular hotspots for London’s fashion scene. Through their close proximity, their aisles receive an eclectic mix of designer and on-trend high street brands donated by fashion-forward creatives. 

SCT’s work is also speaking to the issue of climate change. The fashion industry has been reported to become the second-largest polluter in the world. Thanks to their second-hand clothing and furniture restoration project, buying from SCT supports a more sustainable lifestyle.   

Just as they give new life to things, they also believe that everyone deserves a second chance at finding happiness.

We’re all accustomed to seeing multi-million-pound global corporations using social media to sell products and advance profit margins, but Whitechapel’s Spitalfields Crypt Trust has shown how even small charities can use social media to educate and advance their social cause among the all-important GenZ generation.

If you enjoyed this article you may also like to read Maria Dickin and the history of the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals.

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