Potential Closure Looms Over East London Charity Without New Location

Potential Closure Looms Over East London Charity Without New Location

London (Parliament News) – East London charity Smile London and Essex faces imminent closure after being asked to vacate its premises. Urgent fundraising efforts are underway to secure a new location.

An east London charity that assists thousands of low-income families is meeting closure unless it can urgently lift £20,000. Smile London and Essex, based in Romford, helps thousands of people in need by delivering essentials like food, clothing, toiletries and homeware. But it was reportedly issued notice on Tuesday that it must leave its premises within seven days.

According to the Standard, the charity, established by CEO Maria Quaife in 2017, has been allowed to utilise the same premises as a hub for four years, where it is not demanded rent. But the landlord has reportedly expelled them so the site can be renovated and leased.

Why must Smile London relocate suddenly?

Ms Quaife expressed her distress to the Standard, mentioning that she hadn’t slept much since Tuesday. She recounted her team’s concerns about job security and the public announcement of closure. Clients have been inquiring about their future food and support options. Following negotiations, the charity has been granted an extension of 30 days, until May 9, to locate a new location. Ms Quaife acknowledged this extension as a temporary relief, albeit insufficient, considering the challenge of finding affordable premises. Additionally, she highlighted the logistical task of packing up 12 tonnes of food, four commercial fridge freezer units, and clothing rails from the retail shop, and the office.

What challenges does Smile London face now?

Ms Quaife stated Havering Council has indicated it has premises Smile could rent, but that the charity must submit £20,000 in the next week to secure this. “If we can raise as close to £20,000 as possible in the next week, we can go to the council,” she said.“That would just be one year’s rent, then we still have to pay the normal utilities and insurance. Our running costs £6-7,000 a month at the moment.”

Smile London and Essex help around 2,700 people a year. It also distributes more than 2,000 Christmas gifts and Easter eggs to children living in hostels across London and Essex each year. Around 60 families a day visit to gather vital food supplies, and many more use the charity’s clothing bank.

Ms Quaife described how clients are treated akin to customers, accessing food and clothing in a shop where they select items before paying with vouchers. Additionally, clients participate as volunteers, acquiring confidence and skills for employment. She explained that the charity began as a small project but expanded due to overwhelming need. Emphasizing the importance of preserving clients’ dignity, she expressed concern that if the charity fails to secure new premises and closes, clients will lack essential support. She underscored the uniqueness of their charity and the absence of an alternative safety net for clients relying on their services. Despite not being profit-oriented, she emphasized the urgent need to sustain the charity’s operations.

Will Havering Council intervene to assist Smile?

A Havering Council spokesperson informed the BBC: “We’re sad to hear about the potential closure of Smile and the impact this will have on the residents who rely on its invaluable support. The building is privately owned, so we have no control over commercial decisions.

“However, we are currently exploring if there is an opportunity to accommodate Smile within any vacant commercial council premises so that they can continue to support local families.”

Beth Malcolm

Beth Malcolm is Scottish based Journalist at Heriot-Watt University studying French and British Sign Language. She is originally from the north west of England but is living in Edinburgh to complete her studies.