Landscape picture of London LGBT Community Centre's interior, showing a table and chairs and artwork around the walls

London LGBTQ+ Community Centre doubles Christmas dinner donation target

The London LGBTQ+ Community Centre raised £1155 for its community dinner on Christmas Eve, having set £480 as its target.

The dinner is the second held by the centre since it opened in December 2021.

Outreach and Events Manager, Tom Ana, said it was intended to give anyone in the community a space where they would not be alone on Christmas Eve.

Ana said the target sum was reached after only a few hours and the extra £675 will go towards supporting the community in 2023.

“People in our community are really generous, especially when you give them a goal to aim towards,” they said.

Initially opening as a pop-up space for six months, the centre announced in July that it will stay at its Southwark address at 60-62 Hopton Street for the next five years.

The Dinner

The dinner was facilitated by The Food Chain, a small London-based charity serving the HIV+ people and their dependents by them providing with meals and groceries, cookery and nutrition classes and communal eating opportunities.

Their Director of Services, Anna Brewster, said the two organisations came into contact when a staff member accompanied a service user to the community centre for a social event run by Opening Doors – another London-based charity that supports LGBTQ+ people over-50.

She said the centre was very keen for any money spent on the event to go back into the community.

Ana said, while not everyone who works at The Food Chain is LGBTQ, there is significant overlap between the communities they serve.

The Food Chain at Pride in London 2011
A PICTURE OF SOLIDARITY: The Food Chain representatives at Pride in London, 2011 (Tom Morris, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

After discussing options with Kitchen Services Manager, Peter Blowers, the groups decided to provide a curry as an inclusive option for those that struggle with trauma associated with Christmas.

Research from Galop – a UK-based charity supporting LGBTQ+ victims of abuse – suggests over a quarter (29%) of LGBTQ+ people have experienced abuse from close family members.

Of those, 92% said the abuse had a lasting negative impact on them.

Brewster said she hoped this will be the first of many collaborations between the organisations.

“At The Food Chain we see every week the power of food to bring people together and build a community, so we hope that we have been able to help facilitate that for our friends at the centre.”

However, she also expressed worry for the organisation in the face of increased demand caused by growing poverty and health inequality, diminished health and social care, and continued HIV stigma.

“It has been a difficult couple of years, and like many small organisations we are seeing more of a demand for our increasingly stretched services.

“As much as I hope that, over the coming year, we see some of those issues resolved and our services being needed less, my more realistic hope is that we are able to survive for as long as we are needed.”

The Donations

Similar pressures impacted the community centre, but the extra donations provided them with important relief.

Centre Manager Lip Wieckowski said that while the centre was not designed as a crisis service, this extra money could allow them to invest in a freezer so they can provide some warm meals for visitors in need.

“It does not happen every day, it does not even happen every week, but we do get people coming in who are unhoused or unfed.”

Research from 2015 by the Albert Kennedy Trust suggested almost one quarter of homeless young people were LGBTQ+ that year, and parental rejection, familial abuse and violence were the main causes.

Ana said the money could also go into wider infrastructure, such as the toilet and heating, which they did not invest in while the space was contracted for six months.

The Future

Wieckowski said the centre will likely gain charity status in 2023, giving them access to renewable funding less reliance on individual grants and donations.

They added that they are looking to employ another paid staff member to take on a visitor-facing role, so both managers can tend to administrative tasks.

“One of the best parts about the job is that you get to talk to a lot of people, and it’s really important to me that we continue providing that service.”

Reflecting on their recent research on London’s LGBTQ+ spaces after lockdown, Wieckowski said they want the centre to become an information source for journalists and researchers, broadening its reach and relieving pressure from more specialised services.

“We’re already working towards being a ‘one-stop shop,’ the idea being that if you’re in London and you are part of our community and you need something, you can come here, and we can help you find it.”

Featured image: Alessandra Vescio

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