Five empty Islington buildings Streets Kitchen could use for winter homeless shelter

Jon Glackin, Streets Kitchen co-ordinator in the Hornsey Road Solidarity Shelter. Picture: Polly Han

Jon Glackin, Streets Kitchen co-ordinator in the Hornsey Road Solidarity Shelter. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

Islington is dotted with disused police stations, an empty prison, dusty homes and derelict warehouses – Streets Kitchen needs to find one it can use as a homeless shelter before winter arrives, so we asked the community for recommendations.

Housing chief Cllr Diarmaid Ward. Picture: Kate Robson

Housing chief Cllr Diarmaid Ward. Picture: Kate Robson - Credit: Archant

Streets Kitchen coordinator Jon Glackin told the Gazette: "We need to get somewhere sorted quick, somewhere we can comfortably accommodate 15 people.

"There are plenty of suitable buildings lying empty, so hopefully some lucky property owner will come forward. If we get our hands on all of them we can end homelessness over night."

Glass House Solidarity Shelter

Streets Kitchen has the blueprint for how best to kit out an empty building fast.

The grassroots outreach group worked with a coalition of agencies, charities and councils to turn an empty building in Hornsey Road into the pioneering Glass House shelter. It offered food, beds and wrap-around support services to about 50 people in total from February to April. But it looks set to be sold, despite Streets Kitchen wanting to use it again.

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Philip Fitzpatrick, of Fitzparick Team Developments, who owns the Glass House told the Gazette he wanted to build a purpose built homelessness hub in the warehouse but the council couldn't provide enough funding.

Highbury Vale Police Station

Highbury Vale Police Station - Credit: Archant

Pentonville flats

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Meanwhile, housing chief Cllr Diarmaid Ward has renewed calls for the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) to lease its 29, predominantly empty, flats near Pentonville Prison to Islington Council so it accommodate more homeless people. The town hall was hopeful the MoJ would hand over its three- and four- bedroom flats in Wellington Mews after years of negotiations in February, but talks suddenly stalled when the government said it was considering a "range of options to guarantee the best deal for the taxpayer".

Six months later, Cllr Ward is urging the MoJ to help Islington house the a solidarity shelter.

"This is a serious suggestion," said Cllr Ward. "They have been lying empty for decades and we would take them off MOJ's hands tomorrow. [...] Street homelessness is as bad as it has ever been. This was beginning to get a grip on street homelessness and eradicate it but last 10 years we've gone 100 miles back," He said the Glass House proved "brilliant" things can be achieved when local authorities, outreach agencies and charities work together.

A MoJ spokesperson said it's had no contact with Streets Kitchen, adding: "We are in discussions with Islington Council about the future of these flats."

Former Highbury Vale Police Station

The former Holloway Prison site. Picture: PA

The former Holloway Prison site. Picture: PA - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Cllr Sue Lukes is calling for the old Highbury Vale Police Station in her ward, flogged for £3.9mililon in 2013, to be used as a temporary homeless shelter. Part of it has been turned into flats but the rest remains empty, despite the best efforts of Sainsbury's which has had four attempts to open a store there rejected.

Cllr Lukes (Lab, Highbury West) said: "There's an empty building sitting in the middle of a wonderful community and it would make a lovely place for a homeless shelter and I think you would find lots of people happy to help in the area. The owners and Sainsbury's didn't respond to our request for comment.

Holloway Prison visitors centre or Banner Street warehouse

Housing campaigner Glynn Robbins, who manages the Quaker Estate, off Old Street, says the visitors centre at the former HMP Holloway Prison and "several" other buildings on the site could be used for a temporary homeless shelter.

Peabody says its willing to let to a charity use the visitors centre "on a temporary basis" before work commences, subject to planning permission, to turn the 10-acre site into flats in 2022.

But Jon has already rejected this option because there are security officers guards based downstairs. Glynn, who used to work as an empty homes officer for Tower Hamlets, added: "Another building that immediately springs to my mind is on junction of Baird Street and Banner Street. I've been at Quaker Court for eight years and it has been empty for all that time."

If you have or know of an empty building Streets Kitchen can use get in touch via its web site or on twitter.

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