The Bridge Renewal Trust: Building inclusive and vibrant community hubs20 Aug 2019
As Haringey Council’s Strategic Partner for the Voluntary and Community Sector, The Bridge Renewal Trust works with the sector to ensure it is stronger, able to attract more external funding and deliver better services. The sector must have access to space where different activities can be delivered. We also manage a portfolio of community facilities that accommodate voluntary and community groups.
This provides a unique opportunity to reach over two thousand members of the community from diverse backgrounds every week. Leased from Haringey Council, the facilities include the Laurels Healthy Living Centre, Bridge Community Hut and Chestnuts Community Centre.
Why community centres?
Our community centres serve multiple purposes including:
- Enabling people to access a mix of activities that are open and accessible to everyone. Additionally, to stimulate involvement and support action and activities that benefit the whole community.
- Bringing local people together, being responsive to local needs and increasing empowerment and engagement.
- Delivering services and activities to support stronger, healthier and safer communities.
- Providing flexible and affordable serviced office space for voluntary and community groups including incubation space for start-ups.
- Strengthening local grassroots partnerships and providing space to test out new business ideas. Including community enterprises such as volunteer-led training cafes and other wellbeing activities.
- Delivering social outcomes to achieve a positive impact and lasting change in the community.
Laurels Healthy Living Centre
We are the landlord and are co-located at the Laurels Healthy Living Centre with four NHS organisations. They are a GP Surgery, community health services, phlebotomy service and an out-of-hours GP service.
We have used this unique opportunity to bring residents, voluntary and community groups and the NHS together to identify and deliver healthy living services that complement the medical services offered by our NHS partners. As a result, several preventative and early help services are provided by the voluntary and community sector at the centre. Comprising of outreach and information, social prescribing, complementary therapies, counselling and sexual health services.
Bridge Community Hut
The Community Hut is situated on the Tiverton Estate, one the largest social housing estates in Haringey. It is a two-storey community centre set in its grounds and includes:
- The well-equipped community kitchen, office space and two large rooms for flexible community use such as community learning, cookery, employability and English classes.
- Community garden, micro-allotments, eating area and space for outdoor community activities such as group gardening, pilates, yoga, martial arts and much more.
- Volunteer-run Saturday@theHut café and a popular health@thehut project for families and older people.
- A unique partnership involving local voluntary and community organisations and faith groups has developed due to the catalytic effect of the centre.
Chestnuts Community Centre
Chestnuts Community Centre is a much-loved community hub, situated within the pleasant grounds of Chestnuts Park. Everyone gets a warm welcome at the Chestnuts and the opportunity to try a wide range of different activities. The centre is home to several grassroots voluntary and community groups.
We work with these community groups and residents to ensure that the programme of activities is free or affordable to residents. If people cannot find the activity they would like to do, we encourage them to work with us to develop a new activity.
Facilities offered at the centre include a large hall, dance studio, flexible multi-use rooms, community kitchen and offices for the grassroots groups. There is a long list of activities such as:
- Community events
- Employability training
- Sewing club
- Green projects
- Several faith groups
- After school activities e.g.
- Drama classes for children
- Art workshops
There is also the Chestnuts Connection group which is for socially isolated people who are over 50 and living with a long-term health condition. They have lunch and participate in activities such as Tai-Chi, singing sessions, chair based exercises, and group discussions on health/wellbeing matters.
“I love coming to the weekly Chestnuts Connections Group, it’s a great opportunity to meet my friends, especially when we’re all singing”
Sustainability and the future
Community centres are challenging to run viably and sustainably. Even more so when the buildings are older and less environmentally sustainable. It can be a fine line between being an asset or a liability. A centre can require considerable investment in terms of staffing and financial resources to ensure that it is welcoming and an inclusive and vibrant hub for community activities. Other important considerations include security of tenure, increasing occupancy, building health and safety compliance and running the centre sustainably on a full cost recovery model.
Working proactively with community groups to target affordable and/or funded activities that benefit the most vulnerable and disadvantaged members of the community such as isolated older people, people with mental health problems or dementia, young people, parents and families and long-term unemployed people can provide a way forward.
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