The Community Trust was formed in 1994 in response to the high crime rate and poor housing services on the Stockwell Park Estate and the surrounding areas of South London. At the time, the estate was ranked among the ten worst estates in the country by a UK Government agency. This prompted a group of council tenants from the estate to create a Tenant Management Organisation with the aim of securing investment from Central and Local Government to refurbish the estate. On gaining an initial £3.5 million revenue allowance from Lambeth Council, the original trustees formed a charity and a company limited by guarantee.
However, after the initial investment had been spent, the local authority brought forward proposals to transfer the running of the estate to a housing association. The Community Trust were committed to their promise to the residents and so they approached Lambeth Council and told the officers that the tenants would arrange the transfer of the estate themselves in order to secure the remainder of the refurbishment funding. A ballot of the estate residents was required to approve the proposal, and a 97% 'yes' vote was secured. By managing the £220 million of investment funds directly, the Trust ensured that not a single social housing unit was lost and an additional five were built. Unused land was given over to provide private housing to help fund the deal. 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.
Over the same period, the trustees worked with young people on the local estates to address the gang warfare and drug dealing that had been rife in the area. By working from within the community, the levels of crime and drug dealing on the estate were massively curtailed virtually overnight. The Trust was also committed to ensuring that no one was left behind in the regeneration process and we continued to work with homeless, vulnerable and newly arrived people, moving those who were willing into rehab or to community support organizations.
During this time, we were operating from old garages. However, in 2016 we moved into our spacious, modern and fully refurbished Community Centre and received a small ongoing grant to cover basic running costs. From this, we are responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the Centre, paying all bills and insurances ourselves. Despite raising some additional income from venue hire and fundraising, we still struggle to cover the cost of all of our charitable activities.
Today we continue our mission of offering a safe refuge for those who need one, providing ongoing support to those who struggle with addiction, supporting education and expanding opportunity for young people on the estate and surrounding areas and promoting social cohesion. We aim to demonstrate empathy, understanding, resilience and acceptance. We are usually open seven days a week, run by a small management team, volunteers and with the assistance of our client group. 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.