Tucked away in the Chadswell block of flats just South of Camden Town Hall is a centre that is important to many in this lively community. It is the Chadswell Health Living Centre. A large, cheerful room is used for a range of activities aimed at the Bangladeshi, Somali and Chinese communities. I was happy to visit at their invitation last Friday, with Councilors Abdul Hai and Sally Gimson.
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Classes in English, literacy and computing are run from here. But Sofina Razzaque, Ifrah Ahmed and Judith Leung offer much more than information and classes. They provide a friendly place in which people can meet and engage with each other. I received a warm reception and many people explained how much it meant to them.
The community were keen to raise a range of issues with me. But the most shocking issue was the rise in Islamophobia. A number of people told me there have been many more incidents in recent weeks. These ranged from threats to abuse. People said they were frightened and some are now apprehensive about going out in public.
I’ve written to the most senior police officer in Camden, the Borough Commander, Penelope Banham, raising the issue and setting up a meeting with her and our Councilors to see how we can re-assure the community.
Racism is by no means the only problem the community faces. Housing is a real issue. Many families are crammed into tiny one and two bedroom flats. Some in the private sector are damp and are often expensive. The pressure on public housing – owned by the Council and by Housing Associations is intense. So it is difficult to raise people’s expectations that they will be re-housed, but I am always keen to hear individual cases and see that they have been properly assessed.
There is also concern about poorly lit streets and the use of drugs and drink in the area. All of which explains why the centre is such a valued resource: a place of friendship, community and reliable advice