A friend in deed

Milena stood outside Manor Gardens

Milena of Manor Garden Centre on helping vulnerable people through this challenging time of year

Manor Gardens is a health and wellbeing charity based in north Islington. We offer support for all people in Islington. We have a ‘starting well’ service, where we work with pregnant women, mothers, fathers, and families, mainly from our refugee and migrant communities. We support adults who have physical and mental issues and aim to improve their wellbeing by providing wraparound practical and emotional support. We put on a range of wellbeing activities, which are open to all Islington residents. You can drop into our coffee mornings, improve your English at our Conversation Café or take up art therapy.

Our frontline staff are experienced advocates, many of them bilingual, and work one-to-one with clients to refer them to the most appropriate service, set up appointments, signpost them to other professionals and provide social connections through our activities. We help people with practical support, like filling out forms, calling people on their behalf or booking and accompanying them to appointments – so advocating on behalf of vulnerable people.

In the last year we’ve found that people are desperate to get out of their houses and get together with friendly faces. Our coffee mornings are attracting more and more people. They come to meet new people but often we earn their trust, and they begin to open up about the issues they are facing, be it with housing or debt. People’s mental health took a real knock during Covid, and we are definitely still seeing the effects of that. There are more vulnerable people and the number we are working on during each week continues to increase.

The cost of living crisis so soon after the pandemic has hit residents even harder. During Covid we realised that we were able to engage with a wide range of people through providing them food. We have continued this throughout the year with our food co-op and helping people access food vouchers. Our food co-op is every Wednesday and people can come and pay three pounds for a bag of food and choose what they want. This year, people are worried about their bills. We try to find out if they can access any financial support, such as grants and benefits. Some clients come to the door and they’re unfortunately not receiving the benefits they’re entitled to, so we try to get through to professional services who help them to access them.

Since October we’ve been offering a warm space with hot soup every weekday. People are coming here to keep warm, have a cup of tea and have a chat. If they need any support, we talk to them and see how we can support. We’ve also organised workshops offering tips on saving money and energy. It’s a good place for people to come if they don’t know where to start.

We open Monday to Friday and our winter wellbeing project, where we invite people to come to the centre, runs between 10am and 3pm. There’s space for people to sit down, read the newspaper, talk to other residents or talk to us. There’s a friendly atmosphere; they don’t have to stress about anything. We are open to everyone.

Manor Gardens has launched a special appeal to help local people get through the winter. This supports both their cosy café and hot food, but also hampers and Christmas treats for residents. You can donate online via the Manor Gardens website.

Find out more about cost of living support on the Islington council website.

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