The Margins Project | Autumn 2022 Updates
28 September 2022
The Margins Project, based at Union Chapel, offers a range of services supporting people facing homelessness, risk of homelessness and crisis in Islington. These services aim to help people in their hour of need and with their long-term support needs. In our Autumn update, meet the team, learn how their work has helped others, and how you can support
Welcome to this Autumn edition of our newsletter. I am Amanuel Woldesus, Head of Margins, and joined the charity in April 2021 when Margins was still only halfway through the COVID Crisis.
The Pandemic has meant that we have been unable to operate our Night Shelter for the past 2 years. We also had to be highly flexible in running our crisis drop-in services, when regulations meant having close our internal drop-in and instead offer food and support from our door. Demand for our advice service shot through the roof and was delivered remotely by mobile or in the local park, when our premises were closed.
When Union Chapel was shut as a venue so too was the Margins Café and along with it our Supported Employment Programme.
We have, until very recently, been operating with a reduced staff team and we had to concentrate our limited capacity on meeting the complex needs of our guests. This meant that communication to our supporters suffered, but with this, our first newsletter in years we hope to keep you informed of our work on a quarterly basis.
MEET THE TEAM
We are delighted to welcome Josie to our team, who joined us in the summer in the new role of Crisis Services Facilitator. Previously Josie has worked for Help on Your Doorstop and within the NHS. Nick our experienced Housing and Benefits Advisor has had his position increased to full-time and job title changed to Advice and Engagement Worker, in an effort to engage and meet the growing demand for his services.
Iraj, our chef, is delighted to have re-opened the Margins Café and is ably supported by Gary, our Kitchen Porter. With the Café open, we have been able to reinstate the Supported Employment Programme, where Iraj trains people, who experience homelessness, substance misuse and/or prison, in catering, customer services and employment skills. This project has a remarkable record of people progressing to further sustained employment, and not necessarily in the hospitality sector, as the following case shows.
A CASE STUDY
‘K’ moved from the North of England to London but quickly found himself homeless. With the support of another homeless agency, he was helped into temporary accommodation. They are one of the many partner agencies who refer people to the Margins Supported Employment Programme (SEP) and thought ‘K’ would be a good candidate.
When ‘K’ came to us he was incredibly nervous, withdrawn and wary of the outside world. But he stuck with us and completed three and a half months of training and paid at the London Living Wage. Iraj found him a job in a bicycle Retail and Repair shop and kept in touch on a regular basis.
After about a year the business owner invited ‘K’ to become a partner. During the pandemic demand for bicycles was booming and they opened another shop to meet demand. When Iraj last spoke to ‘K’ he said he was saving up for a deposit on a house.
MEET A VOLUNTEER
Margins has a wonderful team of caring and dedicated volunteers, without which we would struggle to carry out our services.
One such example is Archie who has been with us for over 2 years, joining us shortly after the first COVID-19 lockdown. He found us through an Islington Voluntary Action, an umbrella of voluntary organisations that specialises in advertising opportunities for potential volunteers to link up with the Islington Community Sector.
Archie was attracted to Margins for a number of reasons. He said that many years ago he had volunteered for Centrepoint and that currently people who experience homelessness are facing some of the greatest challenges. He also lives locally in Highbury, loves the Union Chapel, where he has seen some of the best gigs and although personally not religious, admires their non-conformist stance. Another big plus was the flexibility of the role, in that he didn’t have to commit to strict regular hours, which as busy freelancer suited his work patterns and made it possible to be involved.
At first, he just offered himself as unskilled labour making teas and coffees or whatever tasks he was asked to do. He was wary of talking to our guests as he didn’t want to cross any boundaries. But through encouragement of staff and other volunteers he soon started chatting away while making a cup of tea and desperate to hear people’s stories. Archie remarked that “As a TV producer and director I have a natural curiosity and empathy for others”
What he has learnt and would advise others seeking to volunteer is not to judge people for what they look like or by their circumstances. He said that “just because someone displays mental health issues it doesn’t mean that they are not intelligent or creative”.
Archie says there were many things he did not know about homelessness and has come away with a greater respect admiration, empathy and stronger focus for people who face these issues. He is also highly complimentary about the other volunteers and staff, “they are a great team”. Finally, he admitted that he had become “emotionally attached to Margins”
We want to thank Archie and all our other volunteers for their invaluable support.
If you are interested in volunteering for Margins, please contact [email protected]
With the pandemic hopefully past, we now move into a new era of inflation, food and fuel poverty and the cost of living crisis. We are just experiencing demand for our services rising, in an environment where Trust and Foundation funding is getting squeezed. So, if you are able to support our vital services, we would be grateful if you would donate here
Margins is supported by Garfield Weston Foundation‹ back