South Kilburn community support Rumi's Cave as they battle council's plan to demolish their building
PUBLISHED: 14:02 13 August 2019 | UPDATED: 10:39 21 August 2019
A charity exists within a heritage building in South Kilburn that asks for no council funding yet supports the homeless, those with low and no incomes, and the wider community.
Rumi's Cave, global charity Penny Appeal, and British Muslim TV, are all based in the council-owned Carlton Centre, in Carlton Vale.
But last Thursday supporters of Rumi's Cave held a party with free food and drink, where groups sat and made green ribbons and drew their thoughts on a tablecloth in preparation for a protest on August 27 at the Brent Civic Centre.
Council chiefs propose to demolish the Carlton Centre - an epicentre of support for South Kilburn's community - and replace it with 18 flats and an "enterprise hub" which will be managed by the South Kilburn Trust (SKT), based in the Granville Centre next door.
Dee Woods, co-founder of the Granville Community Kitchen, told this newspaper: "We've been fighting for three years. You don't save one building from annihilation (Granville) then rip away the heritage of another, and for what? Eighteen flats which could be absorbed elsewhere.
"If they get rid of this heritage building, that's it, it's just another housing scheme with nothing to ground it or hold it together."
Rumi's Cave, founded in Willesden by Sheikh Babikir in 2011, moved core services into the building last year and runs a cafe on the ground floor, where they also provide benefits advice and help visitors fill application forms.
They offer more than 60 programmes including English as a second language, poetry, music, support for the elderly, on the first floor, where there is a hall which they rent out at £40 an hour for parties and celebrations.
The Penny Appeal and British Muslim TV offer further opportunities on the top floor. There is also a free creche for children.
Members operate a weekly soup kitchen regularly feeding more than 100 people, and a foodbank with clothes and other non perishables for Kilburn's most vulnerable citizens.
Jassim Khalili, has been rough sleeping since 2015 and comes to the centre "nearly every day".
The 52-year-old has no identification which he said was "misplaced by court transport" after a night where he was picked up by police. This makes it practically impossible for him to access state services.
The charity finds him shelter, but shelters said Jassim, are never long term and he sleeps in different parks. He is also terrified of where he might be placed after "a stranger grabbed [him] by the throat" in a Willesden Green shelter.
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"This is an amazing place," he said. "They still keep on helping me. I have nowhere to go. I used to go to a place in Westminster but that went from helping 200 people to just 50 and now it's closed. If the council want to take the building, that's not good."
Glaiza Padulla, Rumi's Kitchen manager, said: "The campaign is about the building - keep the building because the community are going to lose another space.
"The council wants to change the space, the community space, but it's not like for like.
"This project costs Brent nothing. It's all from grants. We are saving them a tonne of money. We will challenge the application."
Emad Hamaridha, who runs Rumi's Cafe, added: "Take the whole community out for 18 flats for families? It's not fair pushing the community away. I'm sure the council can build more somewhere else."
We're devastated, it's heartbreaking," said Rumi's Kitchen volunteer Afsheen Kureshi.
"I started working here a month ago and if this goes through, where will people go. The other day a mother came in needing nappies for her baby. She couldn't afford nappies, where will she go?"
Rumi's Kitchen offers a free soup kitchen to the borough's homeless on a Sunday. They give a free breakfast to the most vulnerable neighbours every day and will feed anyone in need who comes to them - and many do.
Afsheen added: "How can Brent be Borough of Culture next year and close this service down? Brent is pushing for the arts, music and youth, we are doing this already. How can they prepare for Borough of Culture and stop this?"
Kilburn representative, Cllr Faduma Hassan (Lab) said: "This is a vital service in a vital centre for the community. It's buzzing, constantly in use. When you look at the awful government cuts to local services these are the beacons, completely voluntary. We should be supporting this as a council."
Cllr Muhammed Butt, leader of Brent Council, said: "Rumi's Cave were offered space in the Carlton building on a short-term, three-year lease, on the understanding that the site would be developed from 2020. We value the work Rumi's Cave do for Brent residents, which is why we look forward to working with them on their continued future in Brent after their temporary lease expires.
He added: "The award-winning improvements to Carlton & Granville are retaining valued community space in South Kilburn.
"Creating 18 much-needed new council homes is a part of our responsibility to make the best possible use of the land available to us.
"The homes will help us address the huge shortage of affordable homes in the borough, creating new, high quality, affordable homes for families in desperate need of a permanent home."