The Community Trust was formed in 1994 in response to the high crime rate and poor housing services on Stockwell Park Estate and the surrounding areas. The estate was listed as the 10th worst estate in the country by a government agency (DOE), prompting a group of council tenants to create a Tenant Management Organisation to raise £40 million split between Central and Local Government, with a view to refurbish the estate. We then formed a charity and a company limited by guarantee in order to handle the £3.5 million revenue allowance we received from the local authority (Lambeth). Once the first £20 million had been spent however, the local authority refused to invest their commitment, instead proposing to sell the estate to a housing association. The Community Trust were committed to their promise to the residents, so they approached Lambeth Council and told the officers that the tenants would arrange the transfer of the estate themselves in order to bring in the rest of the refurbishment funding. The deal that the residents (with an 87% 'yes' vote) brought in was £220 million of investment money. Not one social housing unit was lost and an additional five were built. Land was used to provide private housing to help fund the deal, but the Community Centre was refurbished and a generous grant was provided.
Whilst this was taking place, gang warfare was rife in the area and trustees also made sure that they personally worked with all the young people on the local estates (in the decrepit underground garages which was the best space available). The trustees took the local dealers to Trafford Hall (a Tenants Resource Centre) in order to discuss the chaos they were causing on the estate, the levels of violence and the effect on their own families and the next generation. This was so successful that dealing on the estate was instantly curtailed. We dealt with the terrible gang warfare by making sure not only to work with youngsters from Stockwell Park, but by also knowing the local gang members from other estates. We were thus able to mitigate damage that would impact the community in a wider sense. As a result of this work, the estate began to see a significant drop in crime rate.
After the Community Trust had effected the transfer, it stepped back from managing the housing, leaving a new group of residents to take on the TMO. We waited for 11 years in the old garages, working with the young people and the newly arrived vulnerable people who were largely homeless immigrants from Europe. The Trust was committed to ensuring that no one was left behind in the regeneration process and after we were able to move into the refurbished premises, we continued to work with the dispossessed for two years in order to help clear the area (with the assistance of Street Link) and moving those who were willing into rehab or to the Harbour for support. We continue our mission of providing a safe refuge for those who need one, with our weekly NA sessions open to those who need additional support with addiction.
We are usually open seven days a week, run by a small management team, volunteers and the assistance of our client group. Our finance administrator is a REACH volunteer who has supported us for many years. Our board is a mix of professionals and local residents. We are also recruiting new trustees and want to be able to present an organisation that is confident and well-resourced enough to secure additional funding and that continues to show that regeneration works from the bottom up; that we can reach our own potential only when we help one another. We preach empathy, understanding, resilience and acceptance. We receive a grant of approximately £152k per annum. We are responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the Community Centre, paying all bills and insurances ourselves. We have raised an additional £40k to supplement the budget but find that we still really only have around £20k per year to use for actual charitable activities. The Stockwell/Brixton area has undergone immense changes since The Community Trust was first formed and we are confronted with new challenges every day. Unfortunately, we often find that we are so busy with the daily running of the centre, that fundraising takes a back seat. What our team cares most about is showing our regular clients as well as those who are yet to join us, that we care, that we listen, that we can help them turn over a new leaf, and crucially that will continue to do so in the years to come.'