A Lewisham charity is fighting to reach its fundraising goal to develop a community hub and accommodation for young adults suffering from homelessness across the borough.
The Deptford Ragged Trust, the charitable trust belonging to The Bear, a Christian church based in Deptford, is 94 per cent of the way to its £10 million target to build a six-storey structure called ‘The Bear’, providing 33 flats for homeless young people.
Though the total raised currently stands at £9.38 million, there is still a considerably remainder needed to meet the £10 million mark and finish the development.
The Deptford Ragged Trust said that donations have barely shifted over the past few months and believe that the post-Covid recovery is the main culprit.
Bex Keer, Pastor at The Bear Church and CEO of The Deptford Ragged Trust, told ELL: “We’ve been fundraising now for four years, so as you can imagine we’ve written to all of the key grants from trusts, we’ve gone for all our friends and friends of friends who might have money [to donate].
“In a way this bit is one of the hardest bits and we are also doing it [crowdfunding] in the climate of post-Covid recovery. So grants and trust applications – that landscape really changed over Covid and post-Covid, and that’s why that figure hasn’t really changed for quite a while.”
Keer and her team have been writing to grant-making trusts to close the six per cent gap.
The Bear Church / The Deptford Ragged Trust are working closely with J49, a registered social housing provider, in generating the capital for the project. Around £8.5 million of the £10 million target is being contributed by the provider with money raised via Lewisham Council, loans, the GLA, applications to trusts for grants and corporate donations.
The remaining £1.5 million has and is still being gained by The Bear Church through fundraising activities, monetary gifts, donations and grants from trusts. The two organisations hope to formulate a management plan surrounding the nature of residents’ interaction with The Bear’s community space.
Construction of the building began in March this year and is expected to be completed by summer 2024. The remaining funds will be used to finish the construction, fit out the community space and the church including windows, doors and other essential fittings. Keer plans to move all operations to ‘The Bear’ from its current work locations across Lewisham by September of that year.
Sitting at the heart of Deptford, the new build is expected to feature a large community space, café, museum archive, offices on the ground and first floor and 33 flats for social rent occupying the upper floors. The flats will house 18-to-30 year olds on the Lewisham housing register because of homelessness.
The auditorium, café and meeting rooms on the ground floor are going to be warm, safe spaces where residents, businesses and locals will come together in a welcoming environment and establish a sense of community.
In its previous church building, which stood in the same spot as the construction site, The Bear Church hosted a soup kitchen, live music events, parenting courses and partnered with other local initiatives in the borough. As well as continuing with many of the classes, workshops and events, The Bear Church plans on commencing new educational workshops in the rooms and open space located at the core of the building. Keer told ELL that they will be running classes for asylum seekers and use the gallery for educational workshops.
With a huge shortage in social housing across the capital, The Bear Church is driven to tackle the issue by building its own accommodation for social rent. Figures released this year by London Councils has shown that one in 50 Londoners are homeless. With homelessness numbers rising, the crisis is becoming increasingly unmanageable for London’s local authorities, putting immense strain on their finances.
Bex Keer told ELL that: “We would love for it [the flats] to be for young people because we see that we can provide creative community living for them. It’s not just a flat that you get but you’re actually part of something. Particularly at those key ages we can be able to prevent homelessness in the future.”
Currently there are over 10,500 people on the housing register in Lewisham. Although 33 new socially affordable apartments will not be enough to the solve the problem, it will improve the quality of life for each of the young residents that would otherwise be homeless.
The Ragged Project is running a month long social media campaign to raise greater awareness of the project and its cause.
If you would like to support The Ragged Project, you can find details here.