Former residents, staff – past and present – partners and supporters have joined together to mark the closure of Oasis Community Housing’s homelessness project in Croydon, The Foyer.

For 21 years The Foyer has provided accommodation, training and opportunities for young people aged 16 – 25 who have become homeless. The project held unique Foyer Federation accreditation throughout its tenure.

“It is with great sadness that we are having to close The Foyer, which has been a home and a place of opportunity for more than 500 young people over the past 21 years.

“While the charity grows its work in other areas, in Croydon our existing contract to provide youth services has come to an end alongside The Foyer building being sold,” explains Director of Housing, Jen Gauden-Hand, who started working there as a support worker just a couple of years after it opened.

Jen spoke at the Zoom event, streamed live from The Foyer, alongside Oasis Community Housing’s CEO David Smith and Rev. Steve Chalke MBE, founder of Oasis UK, who worked with local churches to establish The Foyer in the late 1990s.

Addressing the 50 attendees, Steve said, “I was born in Croydon and have spent most of my life there. I was asked to go and speak to the Council and, just as my session was about to end, I said ‘One more thing; if Oasis and the local churches can raise the funds, to support young people facing homelessness in the area, will you give us a building?’ And they said yes!

“Admittedly, raising funds was harder than I realised but we worked closely with the young people of Croydon churches – we did a half marathon, we did a huge concert and so many things – and, when it came to the Millennium, the Foyer was ready to open.

“This event is a great chance to celebrate the young people whose lives have been turned around.

“The work of Oasis Community Housing, and the work that has been done in The Foyer over these 21 years, needs to go on in new ways – and from strength to strength. This is not the end.”

Two former residents of The Foyer also shared their memories of the place. Cynthia Kensington, now a self-made business woman and mother of two, recounted her incredible story and the part The Foyer played in that: “Initially I got put into a hostel, but people there were in a worse situation than I was, they were using drugs and other stuff. It was awful.

“Eventually I went back to the council and told them I couldn’t stay there any longer. They moved me to The Foyer in Croydon, run by Oasis. Everything felt so different. It was like someone heard my cry.

“At The Foyer they wouldn’t let me give up on myself. For some reason, they loved me. Every time we drive past it, I tell the boys ‘Mummy used to live there’.

“All of the skills that I got from The Foyer have got me to where I am today; it gave me a foundation and a hope to be where I am today.”

The event was closed with a blessing for the future from one of the charity’s Trustees, former Bishop of Jarrow Rev. Mark Bryant.

Oasis Community Housing continues to look for opportunities to collaborate with Croydon Council, as an approved supplier, and remains committed to supporting young people facing homelessness in the area – as across the rest of the UK.

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