Pictured above: Volunteers Mandy Routledge and Sebastian Taynor, back, with Lucia Williams and Laura Ahena
Published: 27 April, 2012
by PAVAN AMARA
A VIDEO made by young homeless people who face being on the streets on Monday when their centre closes has attracted global interest – with film crews from Brazil and Japan following the story.
Savas Panas, who runs Crashpad Shelter, currently at the Methodist Church in Caledonian Road, said that a combination of unemployment and benefit rule changes means they have not been able to find homes for the young people, aged between 17 and 25.
The shelter was supposed to be open only for the winter, and the church can no longer support it, he said.
He added that last year the winter shelter was able to close as homes could be found for everyone.
More than 50 of the 87 people who have used Crashpad since November have come from Islington, but people from Ireland, Sheffield and Oxford have also found beds.
One teenage boy walked from Brixton, in south London, to get there.
“The church has been really good to us,” Mr Panas said. “We’ve been here from November to April and were meant to be here just for winter, but they gave us so many extensions to stay because they could see that otherwise we’d have to throw all the young people onto the streets. But now, staying any longer would be taking advantage of their kindness. We’d feel like squatters.
“We’ve had no other real help from the local authority, only from the church and people who donate to us. What I don’t understand is that, with all the millionaires and empty buildings in London, how we can’t find a place anyone can donate for a bit? We only need a small space for about 20 beds.”
He added that what was particularly galling was that the young people in the shelter did not fit the stereotype of wayward youths.
One was a manager at Morrisons supermarket, but her take-home wage is not enough to pay for a room near where she works, or for the daily travel if she moves further away.
The moving video, in which several of the young people tell their stories, was made after appeals to the local authority and approaches to other funders failed.
“They’re moving through the system slower than last year,” Mr Panas added.
“The YMCA is closing at the Barbican and that’s putting another 300 young people onto the streets. The residents here have all rallied together. I said: ‘We need you to help out, they can’t silence your voices. You all have different stories to tell.’”
He is now pleading for local businesses or property developers with empty buildings to let the shelter use them.
“There are lots of empty buildings,” he said. “We can be the custodians looking after it, or if the local authority has a building that’s not yet ready for development.
“Housing associations have lots of empty buildings due to the recession, and we’re happy with anywhere in London.”
Though Islington Council did fund the project for two weeks when night-time temperatures dropped below zero degrees, Crashpad is dependent on donations.
When people arrive at the shelter they are given help finding long-term accommodation.
Volunteers say people working full-time have turned up at Crashpad as rents rise, as well as men and women fleeing domestic violence, teenagers escaping abusive home situations, refugees, some with substance misuse problems who are sent to long-term rehabilitation, and those who can’t find work that pays them enough.
One teenager, who grew up in Tottenham, came to Crashpad three weeks ago after her stepmother beat her so badly she ended up in hospital.
“The police couldn’t do anything because they couldn’t prove it was her,” she said.
“Also, I’m no longer classed as a minor so couldn’t go into care. I couldn’t get a job, and then when I came back from hospital my father and stepmother told me that the house was becoming too overcrowded with me and my stepmother’s three children.
“So they kicked me out onto the street.
“I’m terrified of being on the street. It’s scary, and I can’t see my life getting any better. There’s no way out for me.
“I’m constantly worried someone’s going to attack me because I’m a lone woman and asleep. Every night I’m awake with nerves because I know on Monday I’ll be on the streets for good.”
To view the video appeal, go to http://piliontrust.com/2012/04/25/pilion-trust-the-crashpad-shelter-need...