#WomenBehind18Keys: Sally Balcombe CBE

Sally is the former CEO of Visit Britain, a non-executive director of travel company Mr and Mrs Smith, and a governor at the Museum of London. She is a member of the 18 Keys campaign committee.

Why are you supporting the 18 Keys Project? 

I live in Wandsworth, right by Wandsworth Common, and I’m within walking distance to where 18 Keys will be. For the past 30 years, I’ve been traveling up and down Nightingale Lane, completely oblivious to the existence of the nearby hostel. 

I didn’t know the extent of the homelessness problem in London and Wandsworth, as I mainly associated it with central London and locations like Victoria Station, where homeless people are more visible. Discovering that homelessness exists in Wandsworth, even though it’s less visible, has given me a wake-up call and made me realise my lack of awareness about the issue and the presence of a hostel almost on my doorstep.

Sally Balcombe CBE

What does having a home mean to you?

Having a long-term home can be something you take for granted, but I’ve learned not to do that due to the extensive traveling I’ve done. Being away from home often made me appreciate the familiar, secure space I had to return to, where my family was waiting.

This secure base has been crucial in allowing me to pursue my adventures and face various challenges. To me, a home is a safe and secure place where you have family, and where you feel comfortable, rooted, and relaxed. It’s a place that brings joy when you walk through the door. Having experienced many crazy and extreme situations during my travels, I’ve always valued the opportunity to come home, which has provided me with the confidence to continue exploring the world.

What is your favourite room at home?

I have various favorite spaces in my home, and it really depends on my mood and what I want to do. Sometimes, I love being in the kitchen, especially when I cook for my family and prepare a classic Sunday roast. However, I wouldn’t want to be in the kitchen all the time. There’s also a cosy corner where I read and enjoy some me-time. Another favorite space of mine is the garden, which is close to the common and offers a beautiful view. I particularly love spending time there during the summer, though not so much in the winter. I think that actually illustrates the fact that home provides a number of different functions for you.

What sort of feelings come to mind when you’ve had a difficult day, when you come home and you can shut the door behind you?

It’s great because the stress goes, all the negatives go. I mean, don’t get me wrong, when you come back home there’ll be a different set of chaos to sort out, but it’s a different site. If you’ve got a home that you feel very relaxed in, you just feel more secure, you feel more relaxed, you feel in control, which I think is incredibly important.

The 18 Keys project will come to life in a redeveloped property owned and managed by The Connection at St Martin’s. 

Our goal is to raise £2.3m. Your support will help pay for the redevelopment, which will include one-to-one therapy rooms, studio apartments, emergency bed spaces and a new communal area.

You can make a one-off donation, or set up a regular donation. Donate here.

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