How a boy and a fiver are behind a new pop-up hostel for rough sleepers

Malachi Justin said he wanted to help people with nowhere to live. Now The Salvation Army is in the final stages of making his dream a reality

The Salvation Army are putting the finishing touches on a unique pop-up hostel for rough sleepers – and they have a 10-year-old boy to thank.

Malachi Justin sent the charity a fiver and a letter asking them to buy homes for people who are homeless.

That £5 has since been turned into £5million for Project Malachi, a pop-up hostel with 40 homes that is currently being assembled to help the homeless people of Ilford, East London.

Set to open its doors to the first residents in early November, the modular homes will include 15 for people with no recourse to public funds after Salvation Army workers at their emergency winter shelters noticed a high proportion of rough sleepers in the area could not access benefits.

The site will also host the charity’s bike upscaling social enterprise Recycles, which takes used bicycles and trains young people to repair and resell them, boosting employability in the process.

And Malachi is keen to see the fruits of his idea once construction has been completed in October.

“Malachi’s letter said: “Dear Salvation Army, here is £5 I got from the tooth fairy. Please use it to buy homes for people who are homeless,” Ilford Salvation Army captain John Clifton told The Big Issue.

Project Malachi artists Salvation army
This is how Malachi's dream should look when construction is complete later this year

“So we had the first £5 and from the cost of the building and the revenue from that £5 has turned into £5m which is pretty amazing. Since he was the first person to put the money in we thought we would name the project after him.

“We’re in touch with his mum and he’s going to come across to see the units. Like any project we’ve had a few bumps along the way and he’s been asking his mum if he we have built anything yet! His mum has been showing him the pictures and I hear he is impressed with what he has seen and wants to see it in real life.”

Redbridge Council agreed that the Salvation Army could have the Chadwick Road site on a five-year lease, allowing them to clear the land in the summer of 2017.

Since then, the charity has been hard at work fundraising to add to Malachi’s fiver and received planning permission in April for the structure.

The first modular home units have been delivered to the site after being built in Shrewsbury, with the last set to be in place in October.

It is hoped that the project could pave the way for other local authorities to follow suit – but it deals with an issue that has been apparent in Ilford for some time, says Clifton.

“We were setting the project up based on the rough sleeper count from a couple of years ago so in 2017 there were 65 people in total in that count and 49 of those had no recourse to public funds,” he said. “All of them slept on the streets of Ilford for over two years so it’s a really big problem that they are stuck in limbo. That’s where we wanted to target our thinking. And then we are working with RAMFEL (Refugee and Migrant Forum of Essex and London) who will offer immigration advice and support.”

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Images: Salvation Army