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Kent homelessness provider hosts tea party to celebrate national award shortlisting

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Kent homelessness provider hosts tea party to celebrate national award shortlisting

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Published by Susan Littlemore for Riverside in Communities and also in Housing

Mayor of Swale and High Sheriff of Kent join Riverside Team Leader Donna Lee and Sheppey Matters' Community Chef Mike Spackman at the tea party celebration. Mayor of Swale and High Sheriff of Kent join Riverside Team Leader Donna Lee and Sheppey Matters' Community Chef Mike Spackman at the tea party celebration.

Riverside-ECHG, a specialist in working with homeless people, has been shortlisted for a UK Housing Award and celebrated by hosting ‘Tea at the Quays’ at its centre in Sittingbourne last week.

The Kent housing association’s Community Kitchen and mobile Food Truck, which provides homeless people with training and employment opportunities, has been selected for the finals of the Community-led Initiative of the Year category.

The awards recognise excellence across the housing sector and has acknowledged Riverside’s Community Kitchen, which is located at The Quays centre in Sittingbourne, and on-the-go Food Truck project for the work it does to guide homeless people into training schemes and employment opportunities.

The High Sheriff of Kent, Lord Colgrain and the Mayor of Swale, Sue Gent officially opened the celebratory event, which included tours of the Community Kitchen and The Quays’ gym.

Donna Lee, Riverside’s Team Leader at The Quays, said: “The tea party was a way of promoting our shared initiatives with our partner organisations, including our ‘Cooking on a Budget’ programme, which we received funding for from Kent County Council.”

Since the Community Kitchen was set up in 2009, more than 500 homeless clients have benefitted from catering and hospitality training, as well as 3,000 members of the Kent community.  The specially developed 10-week catering and work experience programme has helped 40% of its students go on to gain further employment.

The community-led initiative is a partnership between Job Centre Plus, Swale Council, Sheppey Matters, Community Chef Mike Spackman, Dominic Scannell Associates, Coaching Potential and Doorstep Learning.

Riverside clients enrolled on the Community Kitchen’s catering course baked cakes and biscuits for the tea party celebration, along with a selection of their other individual specialities, including curries and desserts.

Joe Rooke from HMP Standford Hill spoke to guests about its ongoing partnership with Riverside and Sylvia Page from Sittingbourne Job Centre Plus talked about the job centre’s upcoming employment and opportunity events.

Donna continued: “We were delighted to have the Mayor, High Sheriff and all of our guest speakers with us to celebrate our award shortlisting. It was a wonderful opportunity to show that The Quays is not only a home and training centre for homeless people, but a thriving community hub in Kent.”

The winner of the UK Housing Award will be announced on Tuesday 29 April 2014 at a national awards ceremony in London.

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