26th Sep, 2018

Coventry charities still struggling after eviction - despite council pledges

Felix Nobes 23rd May, 2018 Updated: 23rd May, 2018

THE VAST majority of charities evicted from a Coventry city centre tower block are still struggling three months on – despite council pledges to help them.

Many have been forced into temporary accommodation and say they are battling to survive, we have learned.

This is despite promises from councillors across the political divide to help relocate all 43 organisations, which provide a vital lifeline to the sick, the elderly and the vulnerable.

Some charities are renting offices on an hourly basis or sharing spaces which has led some to suspend services.

Three charities have been able to find permanent accommodation and some have received support with relocating from Coventry City Council’s community development team.

But most charities said they were unable to afford accommodation the council offered at full commercial rates.

At the beginning of February the charities based at Coventry Point were plunged into uncertainty after being served eviction notices by the building’s owners amid council city centre redevelopment plans.

The organisations were given one month’s notice to vacate the premises.

In March, following charity protests and publicity, opposition councillors proposed using empty council owned buildings to temporarily re-house charities to give them time to find permanent homes. The ruling Labour group had said it was doing all it could to help.

Mary Morris from Abacus Counselling Service – an anonymous mental health counselling organisation with hundreds of clients – claims it has had no support from the council.

She said: “We have had no contact with the council, we just had a call from the lettings agency letting us know we were being evicted. We have had no email – no nothing.

“Our clients need us pretty much 24/7 but we just can’t do our work now.

“We have been paying for a couple of hours a week in an office space. We can’t manage much more than that.”

On the other hand Shine A Light Support Service – a charity we have followed throughout the eviction process – has relocated to a permanent home.

It helps families across Coventry and Warwickshire who are affected by childhood cancer.

Its chair of trustees, Sam Schoolar, feared the charity would collapse and be unable to provide the services it once offered.

But the charity has been given a new lease of life at the Koco Community Centre on the Arches Industrial Estate in Spon End.

Ms Schoolar said: “We are thrilled to have found suitable premises that will be ours for the long-term future and we are looking forward to moving in at the beginning of June.

“The council has supported us by trying to help us find accommodation.

“But few charities could afford these options as they were offered at full commercial rates.

“We are looking forward to welcoming families to our events, which will include drop in sessions, coffee mornings, therapies and our new counselling service too.”

Coun Jim O’Boyle, cabinet member for jobs and regeneration, said: “We have been able to find new city centre accommodation for two charities – in City Arcade and Steeple House.

“As far as we know all of the remaining charities have found temporary accommodation that they are using in the short term and we continue to work with a small number to help them secure accommodation that suits their requirements outside the city centre.”

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