10th June 2011
By Sophie Mallett
1992. Round the back of a church in Deptford. Two women, Iris and Patricia, came up with an alternative for rough sleepers in their neighbourhood.
Iris French is a humble, straight-up kinda lady. There’s no philanthropic agenda. She was, and still is, helping people in her own community. Manning the kettle and toaster, Iris took care of whoever walked through the door while Patricia Wyndham manned the typewriter – making sure that they had a space to operate and the funds to keep them going.
Thus began the 999 Club.
When Carl and I visited the 999 Club in March we found a large operation on a busy street corner full of life and interaction. it’s grown since 19 years ago, mainly to meet the needs of an area with increasing unemployment, migration and rough sleepers.
The ethos however remains the same – a no-nonsense approach to providing immediate help teamed with long-term advocacy.
What strikes you the most is what a relaxed atmosphere there is within the place. Tea, coffee and toast are the mainstays but what a lot of people come for is the conversation, the companionship and the interaction with those in the centre. It’s a community unto itself and we were lucky to be welcomed into it for the day. Iris, Andrew, Felix, Joseph and everyone we spoke to on the day have nothing but praise for the place.
Nonetheless, just because they make it look easy, it doesn’t mean that it is. Unfortunately, like many community services, they face a constant struggle for funding as more and more governments and councils pull away from funding services that they simultaneously aren’t providing themselves.
There are a lot of online charity donations sites but localgiving.com has a unique mission statement – pairing philanthropic ambitions with geographic immediacy – so that your donation helps your community and your neighbourhood.
The 999 club and Localgiving are both committed to helping out local communities, they both have simple objectives and they both have an amazing way of doing it.
They both need a little bit of help.