Our goal is to build the first residential retirement scheme in London where older members of the LGBT community can feel safe and secure at a time of greater vulnerability. As well as incorporating affordable housing, the scheme aims to have a broad appeal to all age groups within the LGBT community and beyond with relevant amenities and resources. Our vision extends beyond this. We want the first Tonic Centre to be an exemplar of best practice; a place where people and organisations across the country can learn about what it takes to build an inclusive environment for older LGBT people, which supports living a fulfilling and happy life, until the end of one’s life.
The idea was born two years ago. We spent the first twelve months researching the concept, visiting fifteen retirement schemes in the process. We convinced five of the UK’s most respected trusts and foundations that our idea was worth investing in and assembled a coalition of seven pro bono corporate partners. We also put together an accomplished board of six directors who are supported by five talented advisors. London was quickly identified as the location for the first centre and, with some funding and expertise behind us, we began looking for the perfect site.
Two years in and we’ve learned the perfect site does not exist. However, since the beginning of our journey we’ve purposefully courted the media, and it’s now paying dividends. We were approached by Lewisham Council who showed a genuine interest in what we wanted to achieve. We met with senior council executives and the cabinet lead for housing to tell them what we are looking for. We visited five sites across the Borough, from Deptford in the north to Blackheath Village in the south; four of them owned by the council and one of the them owned by a local community arts charity. As we go to press on this newsletter, we are actively pursuing one of these options and will provide you with an update as soon as we know the outcome.
Our site quest is also being supported by the London Communications Agency (LCA), a company which has helped many of the city’s largest and most ambitious developments over the line, including the King’s Cross regeneration project. LCA has contacted twelve council leaders across London on our behalf and we’ve been encouraged by their responses. We’ve met with the councilor responsible for housing and regeneration at the Borough of Haringay and will be following up soon with leads at Barking and Dagenham, Ealing, and Tower Hamlets.
We’re feeling bullish. Expect details of a site to be announced just in time for the next newsletter…