A £400,000 project has been carried out to refurbish and improve The Salvation Army premises in Margate so people using their service are better provided for.
The Salvation Army has been serving the people of Margate for almost 130 years, and for the last 82 years from its present premises in Union Crescent.
Prior to the pandemic the organisation commissioned a report focusing on the issues and needs of Margate and specifically the Margate Central ward.
The report confirmed Margate Central is in dire need, listed as in the top 1% of the country’s most deprived areas, in the top 2% of economic deprivation and the highest poor mental health rates at 87 per 100,000 people.
The ward also suffered an 11.2% unemployment rate (pre-covid figure), far above the average nationally of 4.7%. Added to this is the stark finding that in Thanet homelessness – including those sofa surfing or in temporary accommodation – is double the rate of the national average.
The Salvation Army is one of the organisations that is helping those in need. In 2021 some 4,000 ‘picnic bags’ were provided, 933 food boxes and around 100 people per week were provided with food and a check on their well-being at the ‘back door’ when covid meant gatherings could not take place.
The refurb, which has taken six months to carry out, is aimed at providing a better service for those who need it. The money, which comes from the sale of a Salvation Army property in Redhill, has paid for updated and increased shower facilities -rising from 1 to 3 – increased and updated toilets, new kitchen facilities, a new laundry/washing machine area, a confidential counselling room, more seating areas and redecoration.
The refurb was officially opened this morning (June 6) in a service led by Margate Salvation Army Major Richard Oliver and attended by Margate mayor Heather Keen, deputy mayor and ward councillor Rob Yates, fellow ward councillor Helen Whitehead, council leader Ash Ashbee, county councillor Barry Lewis, North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale, Salvation Army divisional commander Major Mark Herbert and many of the people who use the Margate service.
Outlining the findings of the Margate Central report Major Oliver said they represented “a small drop in the ocean of the problems we face in our community.”
But he said the community, working together, partnerships and donations of all kinds had made this project possible.
He added: “We are not going to save the world but we can make a difference in our local community.”
Major Oliver thanked those involved in the scheme, singling out Margate Morrisons Community Champion Lorraine Holden for her dedication and going “above and beyond” for the project, the community and the Salvation Army services.
Mayor Heather Keen cut the ribbon and said: “Those are sobering figures but we can make a difference in this area and all play our part. The Salvation Army has a long history of helping people nationally and locally and I am honoured to open these new facilities. Now, of all times, people need help and the Salvation Army provides that without judgment.”
Speaking after the ribbon-cutting Major Oliver thanked Thanet council for its contribution to the scheme.
He added: “We do not expect to do more but to do it better.”
He said the Margate Salvation Army is now preparing to deal with the impact of the cost of living crisis.