The neighbours that desperately need our help

Islington Park Street residents

(Left to right) Siobhan McSweeney, Karen Grace, Keith Soutar. Photograph: Karen Robinson for the Observer

Just a mile away from King’s Cross is the long established community of Islington Park Street, 18 mixed-need residents, living in four victorian properties knocked into one large home, who provide mutual support in a caring communal environment. The community is about to be destroyed.

“We are a diverse group, with varied backgrounds, ethnicities, religions, political views and occupations. We always maintain an equal gender balance in the house. Our youngest resident is 19 and our eldest is 79. Some of us have significant care needs and others do not. To differing degrees, we all rely on support from the community for our physical and emotional well-being.”

The property was owned by the small housing association, Patchwork, who some readers may remember. It was set up in 1976 to provide a supportive home for life for its residents. For one resident this has been his home for 35 years having been placed here by social services aged 16.

“The intention was to create mixed-need communities, where individuals with support needs co-existed with others who were able to provide non-professional care and support. Our community has proudly continued this tradition up to the present day.”

“Living in a community helps with the inevitable loneliness of an exciting but increasingly isolating metropolis. There is always someone around to talk to in our house and evening meals gives everyone a moment to meet and talk together. Increased isolation is particularly a growing problem for the elderly in London; our older residents benefit significantly from the social interaction that this way of living allows. We think we manage to strike a balance between support and individual privacy.

“Residents’ physical health also benefits as we support each other through periods of sickness.

“We take it in turn to cook healthy meals for each other. We can afford to buy better quality food than individuals could afford if they were living alone. Those who are no longer able to cook are provided with meals by other residents.”

This is a very special community and is in imminent danger of being destroyed. This is where we come in.

Deregulation of housing associations in the 1990s brought in the new legal designation ‘registered social landlords’ (RSLs) and resulted in the small housing associations that had concentrated on particular needs within communities being bought by larger, predatory housing associations. The RSL landscape looks very different today. My own RSL, Places for People, is the result of several mergers and acquisitions eating up small targeted housing associations like so many flies. It describes itself as:

“…one of the largest property and leisure management, development and regeneration companies in the UK. We own or manage 148,000 homes and have assets in excess of £3 billion.”

In 2005 all of Patchwork Housing Association’s properties were purchased by One Housing Group for £1. One Housing Group now want to evict the residents to either sell or redevelop the property. It stands to make a great deal from this eviction.

The residents are campaigning to stop One Housing Group forcing them out in a bid to make this valuable model of best practice secure for the future. Without the constant support the vulnerable residents receive from each other their need for interventions by social services are likely to increase massively. The impact the loss of their home and their community will have on their lives does not bear thinking about.

Please help stop this horrendous injustice to our neighbours just up the road.

You can read more about their campaign on their website, in the Islington Tribune, the Guardian and the Observer. Radio Four broadcast two interviews earlier this month.

Here’s what you can do to help

Islington residents can email Cllr James Murray, Executive Member for Housing and Development, at Islington Council asking him to support the residents in their attempt to keep their home. Make sure you include your postal address to show you are an Islington resident.

Everyone can sign the petition to Islington Council.

Everyone can sign the petition to One Housing Group

About Sophie Talbot

Sophie runs a small business designing websites for small businesses and community groups. She also manages King's Cross Community Projects
This entry was posted in Community Health and Welfare, Community stuff, New, Noticeboard and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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