The Winch: New kitchen makes all the difference for Swiss Cottage charity reckoning with youth violence and homelessness
PUBLISHED: 15:30 18 September 2019
A new project giving young people in Swiss Cottage the chance to campaign about the causes and impacts of knife crime isn’t the only thing leaders at the Winch have to be excited about.
Over the summer, a new kitchen enabled the "crumbling" building that has housed the charity since 1973 to accomodate the diverse needs of the young people who use the Winch. It was formerly the Winchester pub, from which it takes its name.
Chief exec Rashid Iqbal explained.
"We were approached by Paramount, who were looking into supporting our work as part of giving back to the community," he said. "One of the ways we thought they could help was through the kitchen and the basement.
"We have very few spaces where young people can have confidential chats."
The difference a revamped basement and kitchen can make to a service like the Winch is considerable, it turns out.
Rashid added: "There were two or three things that they did. They put in a working kitchen - for many young people who are sofa surfing or otherwise who have unpredictable housing circumstances, they can come in and help cook a meal. We also have a washing machine. For those same young people in unstable situations, washing their clothes can be hard.
"It also means that when people are in the basement, there's a space for, if they need it, confidential one-on-one chats with us."
But it's not just about interior decorating for the charity, which will move into a community hub in the controversial 100 Avenue Road building when that development, adjacent to its current premises, is complete.
"One of big things we are working on is our Take Back The Power project," said Rashid, "where young people are looking at what they think are the causes and impacts of youth violence.
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"We have just received funding from Camden for the autumn, so we'll be pushing on from the research to a campaign realised and led by young people which could achieve some of the change that they see as important to them.
"This is particularly important now given the incident in Boundary Road [where Abdullahi Hassan was fatally stabbed] - that's just around the corner. And then there was the stabbing in Lithos Road, and the fatality in Regent's Park.
"Our staff are really conscious of watching out for the young people's mental health and wellbeing - that's vital."
Some of the young people involved in Take Back The Power, who have felt the impact of youth violence first-hand, took a 12-point plan to tackle the issue to 10 Downing Street and presented it to new PM Boris Johnson on one of his first days in office.
Also on the agenda is a partnership with Highgate Golf Club, whose ladies' captain picked the charity to be supported for the next year. Kids will even get to head up to Highgate for a golf day.
Rashid added; "I'd never been on a golf course myself before this, it's great because although it's not too far away, for lots of our young people it might as well be miles and miles. It's great to have support like this across the community."
Rashid added that this was particularly important as the charity had seen "possibly a bit of a rise" in the number of young people using the service to help with unstable living arrangements.
Then there's the 100 Avenue Road development, which has been fiercely opposed by some in Swiss Cottage. The Winch will get the use of a community hub set to be part of the project - Rashid said "that seems to be the bit least opposed by the campaigners, which is possibly a good sign" - and as building work continues, young people using the Winch have helped brighten up the hoardings. They've created murals depicting their ideas for the future and the importance of the space.
Rashid also trumpeted the charity's youth enterprise scheme, which is looking for 18- to 25-year-olds to pitch for £1,500.
The scheme, known as "The Company", is funded by Lloyds Foundation and supported by local businesses. "Young people who have a big idea should get in touch with the charity and check out its social media," said Rashid.
The Winch also runs drop-in sessions where young people can visit during the week - particularly for those transitioning from primary to secondary school - while it also runs a 24/7 care programme for kids who need the most support.
To get involved in The Company, see bit.ly/30E5F2W.