Child’s tooth money leads to opening of new pop-up hostel in London

Malachi Place, a brand-new center to help tackle homelessness in Ilford, East London, recently opened its doors. The initiative is a joint $6.4 million venture by The Salvation Army and the London Borough of Redbridge Council. The building comprises 42 self-contained flats, finished and decorated to provide safe, comfortable homes. It is the first of its kind in the U.K. to target “rough” sleepers—individuals sleeping outdoors—who have no recourse to public funds.

The center was named to recognize Malachi Justin, a 10-year-old boy who became concerned about people sleeping outdoors. When his first baby tooth fell out at the age of 5, Malachi gave his five-pound “tooth fairy” money to the local Salvation Army, along with a note asking them to spend it on helping people experiencing homelessness.

Five years later, this little boy’s dream of a better future for homeless people is a reality with the Feb. 24 opening of the new homeless complex. Malachi was an invited guest as the first residents moved into their new accommodation.

“I can’t believe it has actually happened and we have built a home for the homeless,” he said. “I’m really happy that The Salvation Army used my money to do this. No one should have to sleep on the streets. Everyone should have a home. I’m still only 10 but I know that homelessness is getting worse, but this shows there is something we can all do to help.”

Captain John Clifton, The Salvation Army’s leader in Ilford, added: “Malachi’s donation and note really challenged us to do more for the people forced to sleep rough in Ilford. For many years we have offered emergency shelter to Ilford’s street community and, while we could offer food and shelter, we knew it wasn’t enough.

“People end up sleeping rough for lots of complex reasons and it could be anything from job loss or poor health to addiction. Malachi gave us the focus to think about how we could build homes and provide support to get residents back to independent living. 

“It is our ambition to see it replicated in other parts of the country. If Malachi can start this from just five pounds, others can follow his path.”

Councillor Jas Athwal, Leader of the London Borough of Redbridge Council, which generously paid the construction costs, said: “It is fantastic that Malachi Place is now up and running—a ground-breaking joint initiative to help tackle homelessness for those with no recourse to public funds…we will continue our efforts to eliminate rough sleeping in the London Borough of Redbridge.”

Among the first residents moving into Malachi Place will be Frank Wrona, age 40, originally from the north of England who has been sleeping outdoors on and off for three years while recovering from addiction. Since taking control of his addictions, Wrona has been desperate to find a place to live and get a permanent job. 

“I just want to get settled and move on with my life, so getting a room at Malachi Place gets me one step closer to achieving that,” he said.

Malachi Place will provide year-round accommodation and support for people who have been sleeping rough. The Salvation Army will provide 24-hour on-site support for residents to help them deal with the many issues that led them to homelessness, including domestic violence, childhood trauma, relationship breakdown and mental health issues.

The flats were fitted out off-site and lifted into position by a crane. Each unit in the four-story building has a bed/sitting room with its own cooking facilities and a private bathroom. There is also a bicycle workshop, opening in May, where residents can learn skills to help them find a job.  

As well as the initial five pounds from Malachi, The Salvation Army has received support for the project from a number of organizations and charitable trusts, including Allchurches Trust. The trust funded the fit-out and furnishings for the new homes, and also prepared personalized welcome hampers for every resident.

From a report by the United Kingdom Territory with the Republic of Ireland

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