Unused Peterborough building donated for community projects as part of innovative scheme

Abdul Aziz, Gee Sinha and Shaz Nawaz outside the New England Club and Institute
Abdul Aziz, Gee Sinha and Shaz Nawaz outside the New England Club and Institute
0
Have your say

An unused Peterborough building has been donated for community projects as part of an innovative scheme.

The New England Club and Institute in Occupation Road will be handed over for social initiatives in the city, including projects to support the homeless.

Supporters of the project

Supporters of the project

The idea forms part of ReSpace Projects, which is the brainchild of Gee Sinha.

Gee was enjoying life in London before becoming homeless.

Having made friends with other homeless people, he realised that people who had been thrown out of what most people think of as normal society often had huge skills to offer that were being wasted.

He rallied a team and, via social media, convinced a millionaire property owner to gift him use of a property for a few months.

That turned into The Hive, Dalston.

Gee’s initiative has since thrived over the last three years, and he was invited to Peterborough by Jan Goodenough to see how the model could work here.

Jan said: “We have empty buildings, we have a homeless problem. We are supposed to be an eco city.

“ReSpace is about making use of whatever is discarded – people and products - that can be revitalised.”

The New England Club and Institute has now been gifted rent free by leader of the Labour group on Peterborough City Council, Cllr Shaz Nawaz, and Abdul Aziz.

Cllr David Seaton, Conservative cabinet member for resources at the council, has agreed to work with the project to ensure business rates can be negotiated.

The project will launch with a community winter fair on Sunday, December 16 from noon to 6pm at the building.

Gee said: “There are numerous social groups doing much good work, but in a time of austerity and with winter upon us the pressure can become extremely demanding.

“One of our colleagues who helps to run a soup kitchen recently explained that whilst the number of homeless people they meet in a night has risen to an unprecedented 50 or 60, more needs to be done to help homeless people.

“Making better use of disused spaces in Peterborough could help ease this pressure on social groups and the third sector.

“The fair will be a nice way to meet more local people and find out how they’d like to use the space. We’re hoping to use some of the building for storage for local homeless projects and we’ll be sprucing up a couple of rooms inside the building over the next few months - so we may even be able to recruit a few volunteers!”

Cllr Nawaz said: “ReSpace is a brilliant initiative; both Mr Aziz and myself are glad to support it by donating the use of our premises which they need to begin operations here in Peterborough.

“Times are tough and resources are limited, but by working together we can make progress for those most in need.”