How a 10-year-old boy’s fiver led to homeless people moving off the streets

The first residents are moving into Malachi Place today after Big Issue Changemaker Malachi Justin sparked Salvation Army’s project to reduce rough sleeping in Ilford

Big Issue Changemaker Malachi Justin’s dream of helping the homeless people of Ilford was finally realised today when the first residents moved into the new flats that carry his name.

The Salvation Army’s £5m Malachi Place complex offers 42 self-contained furnished flats with 24-hour on-site support provided for former rough sleeping residents.

Malachi, 10, played a pivotal role in laying foundations for the homelessness-tackling plan. When his first milk tooth fell out as a five-year-old, Malachi sent the £5 he received from the tooth fairy to The Salvation Army along with a letter asking the charity to spend it on helping homeless people.

Today, the charity answered that request as the first residents made the move into Malachi Place.

Malachi said: “I can’t believe it has actually happened and we have built a home for homeless people! I’m really happy that The Salvation Army used my money to do this.

“I feel really, really surprised by how far it has come so far. When I was even younger I started asking my mum if I could have some money for people who do their talent on the streets and people who were homeless to support them. I’d like to continue to do more for homeless people in the future.”

I would say to other kids my age: every time you see a homeless person on the streets, think about being in that situation and how you would want someone to help you

Mum Ritah added: “I am proud of Malachi – he gives me grief but he’s done really well with the help of the team at the Salvation Army! It’s been a journey but it’s so worthwhile. The Salvation Army is always family, it’s home to us and that’s how it’s always been and always will be.”

After The Salvation Army received Malachi’s fiver, they added £350,000 from local fundraising and charitable trusts, put in a further £2.5m to cover running costs for the next five years and received another £2.5m in funding for construction from Redbridge Council. The local authority also provided the land free of charge.

The flats were fitted out off site and lifted into position by crane to create the four-storey building. Each flat has a bed/sitting room with its own cooking facilities and private toilet and shower. There is also a bicycle workshop social enterprise on site which will open in May where residents can learn skills to help them find a job.

DID YOU KNOW…

Since 1991 The Big Issue has sold more than 200,000,000 copies – helping the most vulnerable in society earn more than £115 million.

Captain Dr John Clifton, the Salvation Army’s leader in Ilford, told The Big Issue that Malachi Place will have a big impact locally, where at least 15 people have died while street homeless in the past three years.

“Malachi’s donation and note really challenged us to do more for the people forced to sleep rough in Ilford,” he said. “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.

“It’s really exciting to have residents moving in after such a long time of working on the project.

“It’s one thing having the building there but the main purpose has always been to accommodate people and to be able to provide support to people to move them into a better situation.

“So to have that starting in a new way today is really fulfilling and makes it all worthwhile.”

Malachi Place Salvation Army
Redbridge-Council-leader-Malachi-and-Salvation-Army's-Dr-John-Clifton
Malachi (centre) joined Redbridge Council Leader Jas Athwal and Salvation Army Captain Dr John Clifton at the launch

Leader of Redbridge Council, Councillor Jas Athwal, spoke of his pride of helping the Salvation Army create a place for people with no recourse to public funds to move off the streets. He added: “The people who will benefit from Malachi Place are invariably those who have found themselves homeless, through no fault of their own, and are not able to receive housing support or the financial support that others are entitled to.

“The stark reality is that people who fall within this category still have to get a night’s sleep like anyone else does, and are often forced to bed down in all weathers, whilst also putting their safety at risk.”

Dr Clifton recalled that new residents were thrilled to move in to Malachi Place where they are offered “hope and an opportunity to do something new”.

That is the case for Frank Wrona, aged 40, as he moved in today. Originally from the north of England, Frank has been sleeping rough on and off for three years. Since taking control of his addictions, Frank 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.”

Malachi’s input played an important role in creating that opportunity for Frank and others. That’s why we recognised the youngster in our Big Issue Top 100 Changemakers 2020 list – an accolade that left him “shocked”.

And he issued a rallying cry to other British children to join him in the fight to end homelessness. He said: “No one should have to sleep on the streets. Everyone should have a home. I’m still only 10 but I know that homelessness is getting worse but this shows there is something we can all do to help.

“I would say to other kids my age: every time you see a homeless person on the streets, think about being in that situation and how you would want someone to help you.”

Images: Salvation Army