A gold plaque was unveiled by Lambeth deputy mayor councillor Donatus Anyanwu in the new reception of the reinvigorated Riverside Centre.
Cllr Anyanwu was at Riverside, 46 Acre Lane, to officially open the redeveloped centre which is the only provider of high-level mental health support to formerly homeless clients in the area.
Riverside is a care and support centre that receives statuary funding, and has undergone significant redevelopment this year in collaboration with the Bell group.
The Bell group were in partnership with Riverside and its clients in order to give them independence through training and apprenticeship roles focussed around painting and decorating.
Riverside has a holistic approach – clients work with support staff and local mental-health agencies to design a support plan addressing personal debts, rent management, benefits, cooking on a budget, and various practical trainings adapted to clients’ needs.
Several clients were awarded certificates – including one young woman who nervously and proudly showed hers later – given for ‘Masterclass in Decoration’ with the Bell group.
The building’s re-design used ‘psychologically informed’ principles to design a space that would have a positive approach on clients, said Helen Gore, head of supported housing.
“It’s not that we’re all psychologists here,” said Gore, “but we try and understand behaviour and how environment affects it. We prefer to tell people what they can do, in a less institutionalized environment. We give people a sense of pride – you can’t overestimate the feeling.”
Bryan* has been at the centre for four to five months. The 23-year-old came to Riverside from hospital, and finds the centre “really friendly”, saying staff, football, and table-tennis have been instrumental in his recovery – next week the chef will have his first job interview for months.
There are male and female floors for residential clients, that are further separated into ‘stage’ areas according to the level of independence of each client.
The redevelopment fund was topped-up significantly by the Church Housing Trust who contributed at least £5,000 to this Riverside project, with funds coming from charitable trusts and over 13,000 generous church-going donors. “It would definitely not be possible without these top-ups,” said the Trust’s Nicole Holgate.
“I’ve been around the country and I really like the psychologically informed approach here – it’s a totally different approach to hostels with barriers,” said Michael Ryan the director of the Church Housing Trust. “This is a totally different mindframe. It’s a really positive approach, and I love it.”
Oladipo, who lived at the centre for three years, came with post-natal depression and a severe sleep disorder. She told Brixton Blog that the centre was very different when she arrived.
She said: “It wasn’t like this at all here.
“I have just finished a care-assistant course,” she said, “and I still feel very supported by staff here who I can speak to whenever I want.”
“We like to ask people what they wanted to be when they were seven,” said Gore, “and encourage them to do that thing, even if it’s wanting to be an astronaut and finding an astronomy club – people become more resilient, and it’s very empowering.”
See more about the Brixton centre at the Riverside website.
*real name changed.