The Leicester City of Sanctuary drop-in centre is a hive of activity and friendship. It opened in May 2011 with six people seeking asylum and ten volunteers. Two weeks ago, a hundred and twenty-four people attended! This is in part due to the increase in people seeking asylum who are being dispersed to Leicester – from 500+ in October 2013 to 960 this month.
Members of the drop-in describe it as a lifeline, and many new friendships have been forged within its buzzing atmosphere. Destitute asylum seekers value the hot lunch and personal support and new members are helped to connect with services.
Earlier this year St Martin’s House realised that we had outgrown our original premises in the Booth Hall and generously allowed us the use of the Grand Hall on Thursday afternoons. They have also taken over our catering contract and user-feedback tells us the lunches have improved significantly! We now serve lunch and run social activities in the Grand Hall. The popular sewing group and computer users continue to meet in the Booth Hall. We are also running a ‘Help Desk’ service there – dealing with all sorts of problems like delayed benefits, housing issues, school applications and referrals to other agencies. There are some teething problems in running the two rooms in tandem because they are in different parts of the building – but we are gradually ironing these out.
A recent user survey showed that our members are overwhelmingly positive about the drop-in centre and many of them would like us to run it more than once a week! As it currently costs +/-£400 a week this is not possible – but we are hoping to find another organisation in the city willing to run a similar project on a different day. Offers from organisations in the city centre, or in the Narborough Road area, would be particularly welcome. Please contact us on [email protected] if you feel you could help.