Walworth homeless charity Divine Rescue, which feeds and clothes hundreds of people, is facing eviction and desperately needs a new home.
After pleading with Southwark Council not to kick them out of Thurlow Lodge Community Hall in Thurlow Street, volunteers have won permission to stay at the hall for two more weeks.
The eviction order came after the Thurlow Lodge Tenants and Residents Association voluntarily disbanded in December, and handed the premises back to the council with the promise it would be vacant.
Charity manager Sister Catherine Msoni told the News: “This is heart breaking. 150 people come every day with different issues. We’re a food bank and a lot of families depend on us.”
Divine Rescue and its volunteers were warned in July 2015 that it needed to find new premises in time for January. But the charity said it has had no luck finding a new base, despite appealing to Camberwell and Peckham MP Harriet Harman in December and Southwark’s cabinet member for housing, Stephanie Cryan in November.
There were heated scenes at the Thurlow Lodge Community Hall on Thursday, when council officers visited to carry out surveys and change the locks, but were met by disgruntled volunteers and campaigners from Defend Council Housing.
While the charity has been given a two week lifeline, they are occupying the hall by sleeping on its floor and refusing to remove clothing and food stocks, until the council provides a written agreement that they won’t immediately be forced out.
The News has approached the former chair of the Thurlow Lodge T&RA for a comment on why it has disbanded.
Fiona Colley, Southwark’s cabinet member for finance, modernisation and performance, said the decision to close Thurlow Lodge was taken with the T&RA due to “future plans to demolish the building, escalating costs and dwindling numbers of people using the centre”.
However it is widely understood that the sections of the Aylesbury will still wait years before being demolished, due to legal issues with demolishing Phase One of the estate.
Catherine’s bother-in-law, Nathan Msoni, said: “A lot of people will be thrown in the cold. If we have to move abruptly, even if we do find a new place, it will be damaging.”
He added: “We have been overwhelmingly recognised, and won so many awards for the work we do. Only in 2015 the council gave us a Housing Heroes Award.”
“Anyone can become homeless at any time. Without blowing out trumpet, we have done a very good job and we deserve better than this.”