CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Plea by Seven Sisters Road refuge as it faces its own homeless future

Solidarity Centre, which provides food and shelter for hundreds, will be forced to make way for renovation work

08 June, 2018 — By Samantha Booth

Solidarity Centre’s Jenny Lawson and Jon Glackin: ‘It’s sometimes standing room only it’s so busy’

A GRASSROOTS group which provides a vital lifeline to homeless men and women across Islington needs a new home from this autumn.

The Solidarity Centre was given a temporary hub in Seven Sisters Road for free by the Town Hall a year ago. It provides food and shelter to help hundreds of people who are homeless or in a vulnerable situation.

But the building will be out of use from the end of August when the council begins renovation work to create community space and affordable workspaces.

Jon Glackin, from Solidarity Centre, with its “solidarity not charity” ethos, said it needed a bigger space to cope with demand.

“It’s sometimes standing room only it’s so busy,” said Mr Glackin. “If any bigger buildings were handed over to us, we could end homelessness overnight.”

Solidarity Centre, part of the Streets Kitchen initiative across London, is hoping to find another council property with the help of the Town Hall, but is also considering privately-owned properties.

It was hoping to use the visitors’ centre at now-closed Holloway Prison before work starts on building homes at the site. However, the Ministry of Justice says it is already in use, something campaigners dispute.

Councillor Diarmaid Ward, the Town Hall’s housing chief who volunteers and helped at the group on Christmas Day, said: “If I could give them a council building I would give them one tomorrow, but they are thin on the ground.

“We were very glad to give them the space on a ‘meanwhile’ basis. I’m trying to help them find another building. It would be great if it was in Islington.”

Jenny Lawson, of Streets Kitchen, said the community needs the scheme, which it would like to expand to include showers and washing facilities.

Part of the group’s “solidarity” ethos in­volves not standing behind tables to serve anyone who attends the centre. Sam, who found himself in a vulnerable situation when he said his disability allowance was cut, said Mr Glackin had helped save him.

“If it wasn’t for him, I would’ve starved,” the 61-year-old said. “They make everybody feel welcome.”

Ms Lawson said: “There’s hidden homelessness, a lot of sofa surfers, a lot of people relying on their family and friends. A lot of homeless people have been let down by the system, or they do not trust it as they have been let down and it’s not their fault.”

To help with a property, or to volunteer at the centre, email info@streetskitchen.org

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