Beyond the Crossroads
Lee Green Lives Chair Jim Mallory on the aims of the Centre
Our “open to all” ethos at Lee Green Lives means so much to people who live in our area. Activities provide stimulation, learning and friendship while advice and support services offer help to those who are struggling to cope with poverty, mental health or loneliness. Our community centre and the volunteers and workers who sustain it have become an ever more invaluable local resource. The increase in our workload, however, has meant we are often overstretched. At a time of diminishing public resources we have worked hard to attract more funds to match the voluntary resources that have sustained us.
We went back to basics following last year’s successful Annual General Meeting, entitled “Lee Green (Lives) at the Crossroads”. That drew a large local response, some enthusiastic new trustees and further support from existing and new partners, including a local housing association and the local library.
We have tried to define what we are about. Our expanded group of trustees have in consultation with users and volunteers reaffirmed our core values as a welcoming, inclusive and user-led organisation, working in partnership with others towards a “safer, stronger and more cohesive community with opportunities for self-development and growth accessible to all”.
Not just words at Lee Green Lives… just look at what goes on at Lee Green community centre, a converted empty unit in a run-down shopping centre. In this report, you will read about the joy and friendship that people get from exercises to music, activities for those with a severe disability, the sewing and knitting groups, and coffee and chat sessions; or the empowerment people get from speaking English if that’s not their first language, or learning how to use a computer.
Those computers have also become crucial to delivering our advice and advocacy services for people needing help in dealing with the cuts, particularly in benefits and job seekers’ allowance that often lead to poverty and homelessness. These are the times many people live in and our work reflects their needs.
All this against a backdrop of the redevelopment of the shopping centre by its owners, St Modwen, who this year are submitting revised proposals calling for significant extra housing. Those plans include a purpose-built community centre that Lee Green Lives is expected to run. This will present us with a considerable challenge, not least during the construction period when we will have to seek alternative arrangements.
We cannot do it alone, hence our increasing work in partnership with others. Clarion Housing, landlords of some of the neighbouring estates, with whom we hope to share future facilities, have helped us with our Business Plan, supported by Voluntary Action Lewisham, to make us more sustainable. They have also contracted us to provide outreach activities for their residents as part of the local community’s need for a wider cohesion. We have also begun working with Lewisham Homes, who provide the council’s housing.
Meanwhile, we are part of a network of some 15 local community groups, including the local library. Lee Green Consortium (about which we report separately) is helping them to work together while ensuring all of our volunteers get the recognition their efforts deserve.
My thanks go to all those who have helped Lee Green Lives go some way towards making our area a better place.