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Simon House, 1980/1981

These are pictures of Oxford Cyrenian's Simon House Nightshelter and the pretty extraordinary people who lived and worked there, taken during 1980 and 1981 when I was a voluntary worker there.

We were in the process of moving from the "Old House" (old railway sheds just opposite Oxford Railway Station) to a new purpose-built place in Paradise Street, next door to Oxford Prison. Simon House is still in use today, though run by the Cherwell Housing Association nowadays. The Cyrenians are still active in Oxford, though on a smaller scale. Tragically, one of their volunteer workers was was killed there in 1993.

Some of us have just had a reunion, but we'd lost touch with many people here, and I'd love to track everyone who was there down. So if anyone knows where Renate Kinzler, Mariliese Hahn, Estelle Efogen, "Little" Richard Davis, Eddie Lawson, Kirsten Abitz and all the rest are, I'd love to hear from you.

I came across a Guardian obituary of Tom Gifford, one of the founders of the Cyrenian movement, which says that he stayed with us as a client that winter. I can't remember this at all, I'm afraid.

Old Simon House 1980

old simon house
Old Simon House, winter 1980.
the kitchen
Looking in to the Kitchen. I learned to cook properly in there!
the back shed
The Back Shed. As I remember, forty people used to sleep in here every night. It seems incredible looking back on it, but we used to padlock the door from the outside at night, leaving those inside with only a night bell should a fire start.
The front entrance. I'm afraid I don't remember who this is.

Simon House Workers 1980

Claire Smart
Claire Smart. Claire was just out of school when she joined Simon House. Since, she's worked as a psychiatric nurse and in children's social services.
Else Rensink. This is in the worker's flat in Mill Street, I think. After Simon House, Else worked in a nighshelter in Cardiff. She's now a social worker for elderly people in Nimegen, Holland. We met again for the first time in 20 years at our recent reunion.
Renate Kirsten
Else Rensink, Renate Kinzler and Kirsten Abitz. Renate was a social work student from Stuttgart, here on work experience, though I remember we spent a lot of time peeling potatoes together which I think we both preferred. I lost contact with her afterwards (I'm terrible that way) and couldn't track her down for our renunion. I'd love to hear how she's got on.
Else in the pub; Claire reckons it's the 'Head of the river'. For people who worked with a lot of clients with alcohol problems, we spent a lot of time in the pub.
Else in the Pit
Else in "the Pit": the girl's live-in bedroom in the old Simon House dry end, and by far the nicest room in the building.
richard davis
"Little" Richard Davis in the old house kitchen. Richard is someone else I couldn't track down (there are about 50 Richard Davis's on Friends Reunited. The kitchen looks a mess, but I grew to love working in there: some really good food was made in it (with not too many food poisonings..).