Divine Rescue food bank continues occupation of Aylesbury Estate community hall

News Desk (19 January, 2017) Housing

“Not every church can manage having as many homeless people visit them as we need, and some, despite being part of the Christian community, do not want to," food bank manager says

14442photo by Denis McWilliams

Volunteers from an Aylesbury Estate food and clothes bank are continuing to occupy the Thurlow Lodge Community Hall, despite the council’s request for them to leave.

A two-week grace period for the Divine Rescue homeless charity to remain at the hall, where it helps up to 100 people a day, is due to end on Friday.

Southwark Council told the News it had no immediate plans to evict Divine Rescue from the hall in Thurlow Street. Although it does not approve of the “unnecessary” occupation, and it has stated it will tender for a new party to manage the hall.

The authority has also invited the charity and campaigners from Defend Council Housing, who’ve joined the occupation, to hold talks.

Divine Rescue’s manager Sister Catherine Msoni, has occupied the hall since January 6, when the council was due to repossess Thurlow Lodge.

“We are very tired but we have kept going and still been able to work from here,” Sister Catherine said, “but the council want to talk to us about leaving.”

Photo by Denis McWilliams

Divine Rescue was made aware of the hall’s closure in June, but had no luck in finding a new base since then.

The decision to close the hall was made voluntarily by its Management Committee (made up of three TRAs and the Creation Trust) and would also see it made vacant and given back to the council.

Sister Catherine added: “We haven’t found a new place. It’s not simply a case of just moving.

“Not every church can manage having as many homeless people visit them as we need, and some, despite being part of the Christian community, do not want to. Some people find homeless people threatening or smelly. Sometimes health and safety is an issue.

“We have been helped for a long time by the Walworth Methodist Church, but they don’t have space for all of our clients. Pecan have also been helping us.”

Southwark’s cabinet member for finance, modernisation and performance, councillor Fiona Colley, has said the authority “at no point” tried “or threatened” to evict Divine Rescue from Thurlow Lodge.

“We have asked for a meeting between council officers, the charity and their legal representatives so we can work out the best way forward in the short term and we are waiting for the charity to get back to us with a suitable time,” Cllr Colley said.

“While we are happy to speak to the charity about their continued use of the offices in Thurlow Lodge, we would strongly encourage campaigners to think about this unnecessary occupation.”

 

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