Why are we exciting?
Castlehaven is no ordinary community centre. It’s premises, just to the west of Camden Town, do serve local people, but to think ‘village hall’ is to start at the wrong end of an evolutionary journey of almost 30 years that has seen Castlehaven Community Association grow from a small building based service provider into a dynamic agency for social change constantly searching for new more effective ways of alleviating social problems old and new.
What are these problems ? Parts of CCA’s catchment area are defined as being in the top 10% nationwide for deprivation, a typical inner city deprivation, where large blocks of social housing crowd together the problems of poverty and social disadvantage. Hence, many of those living in the Camden Town Ward are young people from single parent families who are significantly below national standards for basic educational skills, or older people living on their own, in poor health and with reduced life expectancy. There are new arrivals, families from Somalia or the Congo, eventually housed close to their London arrival points, the Euston, King’s Cross and St Pancras railheads, struggling through language and cultural barriers to find their feet in direct competition with previous waves of more established migrants from Ireland or the Caribbean. There are the long term unemployed, young people and adults who, lacking skills, qualifications, confidence or work experience, cannot break into a new ‘austerity’ labour market where they are competing with over-skilled experienced workers for entry level jobs. Acute housing shortages create acute stresses within families by forcing too many members from several generations to live together in cramped conditions. The area’s proximity to Camden Lock market has attracted high levels of drug trading, crime and anti-social behaviour. Finally the austerity economy has added an extra dimension by cutting services, reducing benefits and depressing job prospects.
What has been CCA’s response ? These problems are all moving plates that constantly slide together and cause fractures in both families and society, pitching young against old, haves against have-nots, leaving people isolated and divided along lines of ethnicity, postcode, age and culture. CCA, an independent charity with a mix of public and private funders, has responded by designing & delivering new approaches to these problems that, whether building or community based, bring people together, growing new social links and acquaintanceship to replace those lost or needed. A long list of such initiatives includes :-
· Camden Central Timebank, the first community timebank in LB Camden, providing those in need with services delivered resident to resident across generations and culture.
· Youthbank, a unique timebank for young people at rsik of offending, enabling them to earn confidence and respect within the community by performing local tasks that provided valuable work experience and skills as well as incentivising rewards
· HELPS, a 10 year award winning series of services for older people designed to tackle the problems of isolation in old age by bringing them together in a holistic programme of Health, Learning, Socialisation & Citizenship now serving 700 older people borough wide
· Common Ground, an Intergenerational Forum, bringing young and old together to exchange experiences and to talk out their differences
· The Haven, an £800K flagship centre for young people with café, dance, recording &, radio studios, designed to place theme in heart of the community not its back alleys.
· Social Brokerage: CCA has represented the community in local developments to secure important planning concessions in the form of jobs or community investment, and has created partnerships with local schools, community centres and private businesses to bring greater skills and resources together for joint problem solving.
Castlehaven belongs to a new breed of community centres, not just a building but more an entrepreneurial force within the community , devoted to promoting social cohesion and bringing about change ( for more details see http://www.castlehaven.org.uk )