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CARIS Camden ReportAndrew Penny
We have had an eventful year at CARIS. The 2017/18 Season of the C4WS shelter was a success and you can read about it on our Annual Report (available in Church). It was the first under our new project manager Nikki Barnett, who has settled in well and is now navigating us through another very busy season. St John’s hosts the shelter on Saturday nights and despite the somewhat cramped space and lack of a shower, ours is one of the guests’ favourite venues, for warmth of welcome and, especially, terrific food.
In 2017/18 we had the great good fortune to be chosen as Councillor Richard Cotton’s Mayoral Charity of the year. He was an eloquent and enthusiastic champion for our cause, and the plight of the homeless generally. Various fundraising events raised about £40,000, which, while not a total solution to our financial problems, has certainly brought greater stability. More importantly the Mayor’s interest has raised awareness of the problems of homelessness and what C4WS is doing about them.
The Jobs Club has continued to be very active, helping guests to identify jobs they could do, preparing them for the application process and with the help of individual mentors helping with the start of employment. For many guests, notably EEA migrants, getting paid work is the only way they can obtain settled accommodation, as they have no recourse to public funds.
New initiatives during the year have included a hosting scheme and a Sunday club.
Home From Home. The scheme is for guests who need accommodation over a finite period, (as, for example, he or she waits for a Home Office decision or needs time to save up for a deposit for a flat). We have found people prepared to let such a guest stay in a spare room, thus freeing up a space in the shelter proper or providing a guest with accommodation outside the shelter season. It’s proved an enjoyable and satisfying experience for both hosts and guests. If you have a spare room and are able to take someone in for usually a month or so, please let Sam at C4W know, via me or the website.
Sunday Club. A major problem for the guests in the shelter is that on Sunday there is nowhere for them to go during the day. To meet this need we have started a Sunday Club, in conjunction with the Living Centre just north of the British Library. There is a warm space, lunch and laundry facilities, with films in the afternoon and regular visits from an art therapy workshop. The club has been well attended and makes a huge difference to guests with no base during the day.
CARIS Camden Families.
C4WS and the winter shelters was, for the first 13 years of CARIS’ existence, effectively it’s only project, and it remains the greater part of our work. Catching up fast however, in size and activities, is CARIS Camden Families, run by our previous Shelter Coordinator, Becky Walker. CCF runs an after school club two afternoons a week in a temporary hostel in Chalk Farm and a homework club in a hostel in England’s Lane. The hostel accommodation is very cramped with families sharing one room. There is almost nowhere for children to play and nowhere quiet to do homework.
The afterschool club is not spacious in a basement in the hostel, but it is well equipped with toys and books and plenty of volunteers to help and give parents a break. The homework club was originally intended for secondary children, but in fact meets the growing need of primary children, especially when, as is often the case, the parents’ English is poor.
An unintended, but welcome side effect of these clubs has been that they have become a social focus for parents, especially mothers, not infrequently on their own. The opportunity has been taken to provide welfare support and the skills and experience developed in the Jobs Club in C4WS has been transferred to mostly mothers, who would like to work, and will need to when their children are older.
In the holidays CCF has run enrichment programmes, taking parents and children to various exciting (and free!) venues around London and once to the seaside- any entirely novel experience for many parents and children. It has also helped to open up for parents the opportunities for (often, free) activities for children.
Thank you for supporting CARIS; it has made a significant and beneficial improvement to many lives. If you would like to know more, please ask me. As well as C4WS' report, CCF's first report is also available in church, or from me.