The Leicester City of Sanctuary drop-in centre for asylum seekers and refugees opened in May 2011. It has outgrown our original base on Thursday afternoons from 1:00 pm – to 4:00 pm in the Booth Hall in St Martin’s House, 7, Peacock, LE1 5PZ. This Thursday session now offers IT and sewing classes with tea and coffees and is attended by around 30 people. Recently the main drop-in session, including hot lunches, has moved to Wednesdays 11 to 2 at Holy Cross Priory Church, 45 Wellington Street St, Leicester LE1 6HW.
(Note: This is now an old address! We’re at The Bridge, 43 Melton Street, Leicester, LE1 3BN)
Red Cross, Refugee Action and Assist refer to us vulnerable individuals who they think would benefit from meeting friendly people and having something to do.
From an initial start of less than 10 asylum seekers per session, we now have around 100 asylum seekers regularly attend the main Wednesday session with another 15 to 20 volunteers and visitors. In the first three years, 906 different people have attended, of which 207 registered their country as UK and 103 who did not register their country.
Substantial grants from the Clothworkers Foundation and the Co-operative Society has enabled us to refurbish the Booth Hall and provide new laptops and sewing machines replacing those that were initially donated and which have now become obsolete.
Access to the internet, thanks to St Martin’s House, and volunteer support enables users to make the most of the laptops. Support from YAPP and Santander has enabled us to provide bus fares to those who need it to access the session.
In addition to sewing, we have craft activities and a quilting group has produced some beautiful work. Donations of odds and ends of wool, fabric and any craft materials or tools are always much appreciated. We have had a range of social activities including bingo, quizzes, live music, poetry, craft workshops and the like – all provided free by supporters. If you could provide live music, run a simple craft, music or arts workshop or have any other skills which would entertain our guests – please get in touch.
With the closure of Refugee Action Advice and One Stop Shop service and the introduction of the new Asylum Helpline, we now find that more and more of our clients are coming to us with problems and have increased the number of volunteers who provide support, advocacy and problem solving. The sessions are now very much the heart of LCofS and though it is our most expensive project, and relies largely on donations, we feel it is enormously worthwhile.