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Project Malachi becomes Malachi Place as five-year-old’s dream becomes a reality and pop-up homeless hostel opens

PUBLISHED: 17:00 24 February 2020

Councillor Jas Athwal, Malachi Justin and Salvation Army Captain Dr John Clifton at the soft opening for Malachi Place. Picture: Roy Chacko

Councillor Jas Athwal, Malachi Justin and Salvation Army Captain Dr John Clifton at the soft opening for Malachi Place. Picture: Roy Chacko

Archant

It started out as a £5 tooth fairy donation and turned into a £5million investment into tackling homelessness in Ilford. That’s right, Project Malachi is now Malachi Place and the first tenants are moving in.

Captain Dr John Clifton welcoming Malachi to one of the 42 units that will help house Ilford's homeless. Picture: Roy ChackoCaptain Dr John Clifton welcoming Malachi to one of the 42 units that will help house Ilford's homeless. Picture: Roy Chacko

Two years after receiving unanimous planning permission from councillors, and two weeks after the Salvation Army received the keys to the building's 42 units, the first tenants were welcomed by the 10-year-old boy who it's named after.

The seed for Malachi Place, the pop-up hostel in Chadwick Road, started five years ago after Malachi Justin, now 10, sent £5, which he received from the tooth fairy, to Ilford's Salvation Army.

That led to a partnership between the Salvation Army and Redbridge Council and support from a number of organisations and charitable trusts including Allchurches Trust.

Malachi with a welcome basket for the new tenants. Picture: Roy ChackoMalachi with a welcome basket for the new tenants. Picture: Roy Chacko

At the soft opening, Councillor Jas Athwal, leader of Redbridge Council, told the Recorder: "This is probably the single, proudest moment of my time as a councillor in Redbridge."

Speaking to Malachi, Cllr Athwal said: "You did all this with just £5, imagine what you could've gotten with £10?"

Malachi welcomed Wahidur Rahman, one of the first tenants who moved into his temporary flat on Monday, February 24.

Malachi talking to Wahidur Rahman, one of the first tenants to move in. Picture: Roy ChackoMalachi talking to Wahidur Rahman, one of the first tenants to move in. Picture: Roy Chacko

Wahidur, who was staying at the night shelter and has been sober for 10 weeks, thanked Malachi for writing the letter that inspired the project and for being responsible for giving him a home.

Malachi told the Recorder: "It feels so awesome to have the building named after me. I'm really happy that The Salvation Army used my money to do this.

"No one should have to sleep on the streets and everyone should have a home."

Wahidur showing Malachi his new digs. Picture: Roy ChackoWahidur showing Malachi his new digs. Picture: Roy Chacko

Frank Wrona, who also moved in on Monday, said: "It's happy days - it will be amazing to have my own keys and I can come and go as I please."

Captain Dr John Clifton, The Salvation Army's leader in Ilford, said: "Malachi's donation and note really challenged us to do more for the people forced to sleep rough in Ilford. For many years we have offered emergency shelter to Ilford's street community and while we could offer food and shelter we knew it wasn't enough.

"People end up sleeping rough for lots of complex reasons and it could be anything from job loss or poor health to addiction. Malachi gave us the focus to think about how we could build homes and provide support to get residents back to independent living.

Malachi said he was very nervous to make his TV debut, shown here being interviewed by BBC London. Picture: Roy ChackoMalachi said he was very nervous to make his TV debut, shown here being interviewed by BBC London. Picture: Roy Chacko

"It is our ambition to see it replicated in other parts of the country. If Malachi can start this from just £5, others can follow his path. We are also grateful to Redbridge Council who paid the construction costs."

Malachi Place has 42 accommodation units and the Salvation Army will be steadily moving people in over the next few weeks.

The organisation expects the facility to be at full capacity for the grand opening on March 14,

It will be staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week by Salvation Army volunteers who will offer welfare support to people living there.

Each unit has a welcome basket with a mug, tea bags and biscuits too

Each unit also includes a bed, sofa, bathroom and kitchen area and the Salvation Army's Recycles Ilford will be based on the ground floor of the block which will provide work and training for a number of rough sleepers.

Starting with the tooth fairy money, a further £350,000 was raised from local fundraising and charitable trusts.

The Salvation Army topped that up to £2.5 million in funding and running costs for the next five years.

Last April, the Redbridge Together community campaign - featuring weekly in-depth features on rough sleeping in Redbridge in the pages of the Recorder - managed to raise more than £21,000 towards the project.

Redbridge Council provided the land free of charge and funded a further £2.5m to pay for construction.


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