2 March 2020

Malachi Justin was just five when he decided to give the cash he found under his pillow to his local Salvation Army branch in Ilford.

Along with the donation, Malachi sent a note to the charity, asking them to “buy a home” for those without one.

Touched by the letter, the charity - which carries out outreach work with rough sleepers - decided to make the wish a reality and galvanised residents, charities and trusts into action to fundraise for accommodation.

Five years on, a brand new £5million hostel has opened its doors in Ilford, providing shelter for those who need a roof over their heads but have no access to benefits or homelessness assistance.

The accommodation has even been named Malachi Palace, after the young boy who inspired the project, 

Malachi, now 10, said: “I can’t believe it has actually happened and we have built a home for the homeless. 

“I’m really happy that The Salvation Army used my money to do this. No one should have to sleep on the streets. Everyone should have a home.

“I’m still only ten but I know that homelessness is getting worse but this shows there is something we can all do to help.”

The original letter which Malachi sent to the Salvation Army read: “Dear Salvation Army – I pray you get money to buy houses for everybody.

"I have £5 from the tooth fairy. Please use it to buy a home. I hope you have a good day.  God bless you, Love Malachi.”

Starting with boy's donation, a further £350,000 was raised from local fundraising and charitable trusts.

The Salvation Army topped that up to £2.5million in funding and running costs for the next five years.

Redbridge Council provided the land free of charge and funded a further £2.5m to pay for construction. 

Ilford Salvation Army’s leader, Captain Dr John Clifton, said Malachi's note "challenged" the charity to do more for local people without a roof over their heads.

“People end up sleeping rough for lots of complex reasons and it could be anything from job loss or poor health to addiction," he said.

"Malachi gave us the focus to think about how we could build homes and provide support to get residents back to independent living."

He added: "If Malachi can start this from just £5, others can follow his path."

Malachi Place is made up of 42 self-contained flats, which have fitted out with a bedroom-cum-living room, kitchen and private toilet and shower facilities.

Each container was lifted in position by crane to create the four-storey building. 

The project will provide year-round accommodation, while the Salvation Army will also provide specialist 24-hour on-site support to help residents deal with issues such as domestic violence, childhood trauma, relationship breakdown, and mental health.

An onsite bicycle workshop will also open in May, allowing residents to learn skills to help them find a job.

Among the first residents moving into Malachi Place will be Frank Wrona, 40, a recovering addict originally from the north of England.

He was sleeping rough on and off for three years but, since taking control of his addiction, he has been desperate to find a place to live and get a permanent job.

He said: “I just want to get settled and move on with my life so getting a room at Malachi Place gets me one step closer to achieving that.” 

Across the country, rough sleeping has increased by 165 percent in the last ten years and at least 15 people have died while being street homeless in Ilford over the past three, according to the Salvation Army. 

Dr Clifton said he hopes the project can be replicated in other parts of the country.

“For many years we have offered emergency shelter to Ilford’s street community and, while we could offer food and shelter, we knew it wasn’t enough," he said. 

“It is our ambition to see it replicated in other parts of the country. We are also grateful to Redbridge Council who paid the construction costs.”

Leader of Redbridge Council, Councillor Jas Athwal, described the initiative a groundbreaking way to help tackle homelessness for those with no recourse to public funds. 

“I’d like to say a big thank to you to everyone who has played a part in helping make this vision become a reality," he said.

"There is absolutely no reason why people in modern society should be faced with the prospect of sleeping rough."

The organisation also received support from a number of organisations and charitable trusts including Allchurches Trust which funded the fit-out and furnishings for the new homes.

Source: Evening Standard