The Arsenal Foundation

“It was a very challenging time”

The Arsenal Foundation’s emergency Covid fund has helped The Margins Project at Union Chapel to support homeless people during the pandemic. Volunteer Archie Powell tells us about the charity’s work.

“I’m originally from Stockwell in South London but I now live in Highbury – I defected north! I live near Union Chapel and wanted to volunteer for a local homeless charity that had a connection to my own community. I work in the media and sometimes you can lose track of the challenges people face in the real world, and how they’re not the ones you see on TV or social media. I also knew Union Chapel well from it being one of London’s best live music venues.

“I’m a volunteer for the drop-in service on Mondays and Wednesdays. I help put together individual food bags, serve food and drink (and clothes donations, when available) and occasionally supervise the showers and laundry. This is the only source of a hot meal or shower for many using Margins so it provides a vital service.

“There are many interesting and highly intelligent people who, often for complicated reasons, find themselves living in very difficult circumstances, both financially and in terms of mental health, and can end up on the street. So Margins offers support and kindness – but not pity. As my volunteering colleague Rosie reminded me, ‘Assume that everyone else is twice as smart as you are and you’ll be OK.’

“Last winter was tough. There were some very cold mornings and demand for warm clothes in addition to hot meals went up. It was a very challenging time for those using the drop-in because Covid restrictions meant we weren’t allowed any of those needing support into the building. The numbers fluctuated a bit but generally it 40 or 50 people using the morning drop-in, plus those given vital help by Nick, the housing support manager.

“Volunteering has given me many special moments. Every time someone thanks you – even for the smallest thing like making him or her a cup of tea – you feel a twinge of pride. Giving someone food or drink is the most fundamental act of kindness. But I think humour is important, too. Many of those in the bleakest of circumstances can be helped by having a laugh, or at least trying to.

“I think it’s really important that clubs like Arsenal support local communities and charities like Margins. I’ve been a crazy fan for over 40 years and one of the things I value about the club is how the fanbase reflects the local community – across race, gender, sexuality and social class. No football club is perfect in this respect, but many of those who need our services are Arsenal fans struggling to get by. By supporting Margins, Arsenal recognise that deep down football clubs are nothing without the communities from which they spring, whatever their circumstances.”

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