by Kate Mounce
Pauline and Adrian Hawkes started with a small office under the stairs, a credit card and a lot of heart. Their vision was to care for the most vulnerable people coming to the UK, children and young people fleeing conflict in their home countries, many of whom had risked their lives to get here. Twenty years on and Phoenix Community Care (PCC) runs 6 supported houses over 3 boroughs, has housed over 250 unaccompanied asylum-seeking minors and British foster children leaving care.
Many of the young people who’ve walked through their door continue to think of PCC as a safe haven and the team who run it as their family. But austerity has made supporting vulnerable adolescents leaving care increasingly difficult for the North London based housing charity. Recently, it’s meant PCC has had to foot the bill themselves, with several clients seeing their social support completely cut. For many similar organisations this would necessitate eviction, but it’s a last resort for PCC and one they will move – or cycle over – mountains to avoid.
To celebrate the twenty-year anniversary of PCC’s birth and to meet the shortfall in government funding, the charity is holding twenty fundraising challenges throughout 2019. Starting with their first challenge on 5thJuly, 3 members of PCC are teaming up with South London charity, Regenerate UK, to cycle from London to The Pyrenees. They will cover an epic 120km per day over nine days, climbing this year’s stage 14 of The Tour de France from Tarbes to Col Du Tourmalet. They hope the extraordinary lengths they are going to will help to raise the charity’s profile and the initial £10,000 they need to keep going.
“The young people and everyone working for the charity have been on many journeys – difficult and enjoyable. We want to honour these journeys. Since PCC began, we’ve always had to adapt to changes in funding in the UK but over the last few years it’s become untenable. We’re seeking support so that we can carry on helping young people, without their own families, through the difficult transition into independent living.” Al Coates MBE, Trustee
Gareth Hawkes, Blair Mortimer, and Sam Kelly have high hopes with their fundraising target. They are asking current and new supporters to dig deep and spare what they can to help to fill the gap in the funding that PCC needs to continue. In return, they promise to keep donors entertained with stunning footage from London to The Pyrenees (through social networks, you tube, etc) set to a soundtrack of eclectic reggae beats.
With figures illustrating the numbers of vulnerable young people being trafficked or ending up homeless, it’s difficult to overestimate the importance of the work that housing charities like PCC do. Migrants from outside of the EU are particularly at risk due to their visa status and lack of wider support networks. Despite the threat that local authority cuts pose to them, PCC are determined to go to any lengths to continue supporting those who need it most.
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