'First specialist LGBTQI+ homeless shelter in the world' opens at Clerkenwell fire station
PUBLISHED: 07:00 02 May 2019 | UPDATED: 15:05 09 May 2019
The "first specialist LGBTQI+ homeless shelter in the world" has opened in the former Clerkenwell fire station, the Gazette can reveal.
Queer charity The Outside Project is running a temporary shelter on the upper floor of the station, for at least a year, while grassroots outreach group Streets Kitchen will work alongside other agencies, such as Stonewall Housing, to run an advice centre downstairs.
The Gazette broke this story earlier this month but The Outside Project asked not to be named until it had carried out health and safety checks.
"I'm really pleased they are putting it into use," Carla said. "And it will be the first LGBTQI+ community centre we have had that centres homelessness in our community. That's really important. It's a massive site - it will be the biggest LGBTQI+ centre we have had in London. This is the one shelter specifically for our community and obviously the community centre will shelter the most vulnerable members of our community and that's the key thing we really need."
Islington Council is in talks with Sadiq Khan to secure funding to buy the station from the London Fire Commissioner so it can be converted into "genuinely affordable homes".
The station has cost the taxpayer more than £500,000 in security and maintenance since Boris Johnson controversially closed it alongside nine others in 2014, to cut costs.
The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, who's provided £50,000 towards the shelter, said: "It is wrong that so many buildings across London stand empty when there's a housing crisis and when they could be used to help homeless Londoners. The level of homelessness is a national disgrace and we need to do all we can to help people off the streets.
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"That's why we're increasing City Hall's rough sleeping budget to twice what it was when I took office - and making sure the former Clerkenwell fire station building is put to good use, rather than standing there empty after it was shut by the previous mayor. I urge businesses and private developers to follow this example and offer any empty spaces they own so we can put them to use helping London's homeless too."
Research by Stonewall Housing and other agencies shows that LGBTIQ+ people are at greater risk of both rough sleeping and hidden homelessness. Whilst homeless, LGBTIQ+ people are also significantly more likely to experience targeted violence, sexual exploitation, substance misuse, and physical and mental health problems.
Islington's housing chief Cllr Diarmaid Ward said: "As I understand it, it's going to be the fist specialist LGBTQI+ homeless shelter in the world, and that's very exciting - and it's happening right in our borough.
"I'm really pleased The Outside Project and Streets Kitchen are doing it because there are really valuable partners of the council. So it's great. So many of our grassroots groups are coming together to do something really special in the borough.
"Homelessness across London is a massive issue and the only way we are going to solve it is to get to grips with dysfunctional private sector, end austerity and build council homes."
More than 22,000 commercial properties in the capital have been empty for at least six months, and Jon Glackin of Streets Kitchen, has been leading calls for them to be used as temporary homeless shelters.
Asked about the advise centre he'll be helping to run, Jon said: "It will be a day centre service with tea, coffee, lunch, breakfast - all that stuff.
"I can get all the services I need to come in and work with us.
"People can't believe what's happening in Islington."