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Winter shelter for homeless bid at Archway former post office building

‘You can already picture it and we are going to put our stamp on it. It’s perfect’

22 November, 2019 — By Emily Finch

Jon Glackin, Cllr Diarmaid Ward, Karen Churchill, Charlotte Keith, Laura Ferguson and Sam Hadfield at the former post office building in Archway which they hope to convert into a shelter this winter

HOMELESSNESS activists plan to house people in a “first-class” post office building in Archway over the winter months.

Campaigners from Streets Kitchen alongside Islington Council have their eyes on a two-storey former post office building which they hope to convert into a winter shelter in the coming weeks.

Jon Glackin, the founder of Streets Kitchen which feeds hundreds of homeless people each day, said: “We want to get started as soon as possible. As soon as we get full-time access we will need to start getting the shelter ready. People are dying on our streets.”

The numbers of homeless deaths has spiked in the past few weeks with plummeting temperatures. A man was found dead on a bench in neighbouring Camden Town earlier this month.

Members of Streets Kitchen toured the former post office building near Navigator Square for the first time on Wednesday.

Streets Kitchen touring the new shelter kitchen 

Mr Glackin’s team, with charity Housing Justice, ran a successful shelter called the Glasshouse in Hornsey Road which offered a bed, friendship and warm food to dozens of homeless people from the streets of Islington and Camden last winter.

Karen Churchill, an activist with Streets Kitchen, said: “It’s definitely warmer in this new building, and there’s a lot we can do with it. There’s a much bigger space to cook with a big kitchen upstairs so we can make better meals than last year.”

Fellow activist Laura Ferguson said: “Because it’s so large, we will be able to have properly segregated areas for our guests, which will be amazing. You can already picture it and we are going to put our stamp on it. It’s perfect.”

The shelter will be called the “Post House: A first-class solidarity shelter,” said Mr Glackin.

Sam Hadfield, who runs CARIS boxing club which trains homeless people and also helped run last year’s shelter, said: “The space at the back is so big. I want to run a foodbank from the back and organise a place where locals can donate items for Christmas gifts to others in the community. There’s so much we can do here.”

 

Laura Ferguson and Sam Hadfield at the new shelter entrance 

Cllr Diarmaid Ward, the council’s housing chief, said he and Mr Glackin along with council officers had walked around the borough trying to find suitable empty buildings.

He said: “We sent out letters to the owners of large empty buildings. We got a lot of replies and we had a lot of options and this looks the most promising.

“We helped last year with the Glasshouse and hopefully we will do the same again this year.”

Locals living near the former Crown post office had campaigned to keep it open when its closure was announced earlier in the year as part of a cost cutting move by Post Office Ltd.

Crown post offices in Holloway, Old Street, Finsbury Park, Crouch End, Swiss Cottage, East Finchley, Camden Town and Harringay have all closed in recent years despite huge pressure from residents to keep them open.

What the inside of the former post office looks like now before the Streets Kitchen transformation 

The former post office site is now owned by property firm BODE which owns various properties around Archway station including the 13-storey Hill House.

A spokesman for the property company said: “Following the departure of the post office it would be fantastic to see the building being put to a positive use over the winter months and we are currently working with the Street Kitchen team to try and make this happen.”

The shelter will be referral only.

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