Established 2005 Registered Charity No. 1110656

Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

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Crisis in Camden

May 20 2009
Council stymies plans for a temporary centre in the borough Camden Council was a spanner in the works for Crisis this Christmas, when it rejected the charity's request to set up the North Centre project in the borough. The centre had been earmarked for the charity's Open Christmas initiative, but came to a halt when the local authorities stepped in to prevent the designated building from being used. The project was to be set up at an undisclosed site within the borough, and would have been able to accommodate hundreds of people. The Pavement has heard that the charity's request to use a building in Camden was given a clear 'no' from the authorities - despite the high number of rough sleepers in the area. The charity said it only made a request to Camden after identifying the building, but that there were some concerns by the council about its suitability. Another industry source, who did not want to be named, told The Pavement: "It does not surprise me that Camden blocked a shelter there." The source explained: "Camden has a policy of actively and aggressively engaging with rough sleepers and people involved in street activity - especially drug dealing around the market." The North Centre was instead set up in Leadenhall Street near Bank. The charity's aim within the project was to implement a centre to host around 300 people, with services such as dentistry and others. Crisis has also worked on a range of issues including transportation, safety and environment, as part of the project. This year's Crisis Open Christmas featured a change in the charity's usual strategy of setting up one large centre and some smaller ones, instead running seven centres in different spots around London. According to The Pavement's source, Camden Council "was worried that when the Camden church winter shelter was set up, it would attract more rough sleepers into the borough." The source added: "I felt that this argument was quite false and ill-grounded, as the winter shelter was going to help people to find a bit of stability and begin to improve their situations." This is not the first time Crisis has been turned down by a local council for permission to open a project in the vicinity. Last September the charity's application to Tower Hamlets council for its Urban Village project was also refused. The Tower Hamlets Strategic Development Committee rejected the proposal from Crisis to implement the project on the chosen site - a 23-storey block of one-bedroom flats, behind Shoreditch Church. The former CEO of Crisis, Shaks Ghosh, had originally proposed the project, which was modelled on the successful Common Ground project in New York. It was hoped that the Urban Village would have represented, for the first time for many, the experience of integrated support, community life as well as the opportunity for training and work. This year's Crisis Open Christmas initiative drew 12,000 guests each day - from 23th to 30th December - across the seven centres throughout London. More than 6,000 volunteers helped to run the centres and provided companionship to guests, and 27,000 guest meals were served.