Rainbow Rising hub

A Wandsworth Charity hub coordinated in the old Debenhams store

A Wandsworth charity hub has been set up inside the old Debenhams department store in Southside Shopping Centre.

The space now hosts many charities from across the local area including Wandsworth Oasis a retail shop raising money for people with HIV and Recycle your Cycle a scheme to teach people bike mechanic skills.

The initiative organised by Rainbow Rising sets up in empty properties to provide charities with facilities and the landlord of the store has contributed to help the initiative.

Trustee Shaylesh Patel said: “The team here are absolutely amazing they’ve done things for us that they didn’t have to do.

“They got the escalators and the lifts running, those things are quite expensive for a charity, but they’ve looked after all of that stuff.”

The schemes take advantage of landlords in limbo between tenants who are often unaware of the feasibility of an opportunity like this.

Patel said: “We say to the landlord rather than the building sit there till plans are made for the space again, if you give it to us we will give it out to charities totally free of charge, although you won’t be collecting any rent from us the other empty property costs that you have go down substantially.

“It’s actually cheaper for a landlord to give it to us rent-free than it is to leave it empty.”

“And of course there’s the footfall and the community benefit and all the wonderful things you see here.

“Once they know and understand the idea they get quite enthusiastic and really get behind it.

“We describe it as the most ethical way to reduce your empty property costs.”

In Southside shopping centre the project has made use of every floor of the building with several retail stores, the bike mechanics and an upholstery training service on the ground floor.

An art gallery in support of the Trussell Trust occupies part of the first floor and the Women’s Consortium uses the offices on the second floor.

Many charities rely on the Christmas period for revenue and this Rainbow Rising Wandsworth charity hub can help a them reach as many potential customers as possible.

Patel said: “If you ask the retail charities I think there is a seasonal benefit to these projects, I’m pretty sure they sell more in the leadup to Christmas. There is an element of seasonality.

“But a lot of this would have happened anyway, if you tell a charity I can give you rent-free space and you can sell as much as you want as long as it’s for charitable purposes there’s always going to be a demand for that sort of thing.”

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