For 20 years Ferrini House in Streatham helped to rehabilitate homeless ex-offenders with alcohol and drug problems.
Run by charity St Martin of Tours, it was unique in the borough – no other organisation offered such long-term residential support for people in this situation. Most residents lived in the small, 20 bedsit facility for between one and two years, with 24-hour on-site support from project staff to help clients to stay clean, readjust and prepare to live independently.
The project shut down in April this year after Lambeth Council, on the receiving end of a 56% cut to its budget from the Government, withdrew Ferrini House’s funding. According to Dr Vimala Uttarkar, director of operations for St Martin of Tours, Lambeth had continued to support their work with ex-offenders for longer than any other local authority in London since the cuts first began.
Despite the financial benefits to the taxpayer of reducing reoffending rates, in the current climate of austerity rehabilitating ex-offenders appears to be low on the Government’s list of priorities.
St Martin of Tours owns the building and Vimala says it hopes to run a new project there in future if they can find funding for it – but it is very unlikely to involve ex-offenders. Once a core part of its operation, the charity can now no longer afford to offer any services for ex-offenders at all. Funding for this sector has all but disappeared. It remains to be seen what impact the closure of projects like Ferrini House will have on crime and reoffending rates in Lambeth – and around the country.