“We are here for the whole community – if anybody needs help, we will be there within 24 hours,” says Joel Likezo, Pastor of the Word of Life International Christian Centre.
After launching in the summer of 2013, the church, on Darlington’s Corporation Road, has become a lifeline for its community, providing help with family issues, fighting extremism and acting as a listening ear for anyone who needs it.
The church has also been working closely with King’s Church to tackle food poverty in the area, and its volunteer run food bank regularly attracts dozens of families needing emergency food and support.
“We serve anyone who needs help, regardless of their faith,” says Pastor Likezo.
“There are many families in need and the food bank is here to help them.
“We launched around four months ago and the only down time we had was over Christmas.”
Being nestled in one of Darlington’s most ethnically diverse areas, the food bank not only reaches out to a range of different communities, including Asians and Africans, but a range of religions too.
It stocks a range of food donated by local supermarkets and private donors, as well as halal meat donated by local shops.
“A lot of people who come here are Muslims, so we take into consideration about halal food.
“This is the only food bank with multiple nationalities. As a result, I have a good working relationship with people of different faiths.”
Sisters Carol and Judy Barker have been regulars at the food bank for around four weeks.
“Everyone here is really friendly and it is nice to come down to meet people,” says Carol, 54.
“If people need help they should not be scared to come down – people will help you.”
Volunteers at the food bank have also been working with Tracy Freeman, chief executive of homeless charity, First Stop Darlington, to explore ways of expanding the service.
“They are more than just a food bank, they are throwing their doors open to the community,” she says.
The food bank is open every Saturday from 11.30am to 12.30pm.
Donations can be dropped off at the church, or collected by calling 07788-844-226.
Source – Northern Echo, 19 Jan 2015
A rogue landlord has been fined more than £30,000 after letting a house that could have killed his tenants and which contained a bedroom with a ceiling less than four feet high.
An anonymous tip-off about the Darlington house uncovered potentially deadly hazards, overcrowding and inadequate living conditions.
Tenants at the house, in Station Road, were found sleeping on the floor and, in one case, in a bedroom without standing room.
The property’s owner, Darlington businessman Mizan Abdin, pleaded guilty to a number of offences relating to failure to comply with regulations, He was fined £32,070 during a hearing Darlington Magistrates’ Court yesterday.
The tip-off to Darlington Borough Council and the Border Agency uncovered an ‘appallingly dangerous’ property that posed a risk to the lives of its overcrowded tenants, a court was told.
Every room, bar the kitchen and bathroom, in the Station Road house was used as a bedroom – including a space just 1.1m high.
The lives of the six men living in the crowded terraced house were put at risk by the landlord’s blatant disregard of health and safety, according to housing officers.
The 27-year-old entered no mitigation and did not attend Darlington Magistrates Court, where the case against him was heard yesterday.
Magistrates heard council officials inspected the house in May and found a catalogue of hazards, including a lack of smoke alarms, fire doors and safe windows.
Fire exits were obstructed, lighting was broken or missing, fittings were broken and waste water spilled into the backyard.
Abdin – of Corporation Road, Darlington – did not attend the inspection and failed to provide certificates proving that gas and electrical supplies and appliances were safe.
Christine Selby, chairwoman of the bench, fined Abdin £32,070, saying: “This situation is appallingly dangerous and the state of this house could have led to injury or even, in the worst case, death.”
A resident living nearby said the property had a ‘regular rotation’ of ‘always male, always foreign‘ tenants.
He said: “There’s a high turnover of people living there and they’re being exploited, nobody deserves to live like that but some people will do anything for money.”
Following the conviction, Darlington Borough Council will now review the circumstances surrounding the property.
Councillor Chris McEwan said its tenants had been exposed to great risks and added:
“This case demonstrates the problems faced by vulnerable tenants living in the private rented sector and quite clearly shows a landlord with no concern for the health and safety or welfare of his tenants.”
The council’s action against Abdin was praised by charity Shelter, which runs a rogue landlord campaign.
Chief executive Campbell Robb said:
“Every day at Shelter we see the devastating impact rogue landlords have on people’s lives, and we’ve been campaigning to urge government and councils to crack down on this small but highly dangerous minority who make people’s lives a misery.
“We are pleased to hear that Darlington Borough Council is committing to firm action against rogue landlords operating in their area and we urge other councils to follow Darlington’s lead and do everything in their power to crack down on the worst offenders in their area and stamp out rogue landlords for good.”
Source – Northern Echo, 02 Sept 2014
A demonstration by the English Defence League in Middlesbrough and a counter demonstration have passed off (more or less) peacefully, say police.
Over three hundred police officers were involved in the operation, which has been planned for a number of months.
Around 150-200 counter demonstrators gathered, many dressed in red – the home colours of Middlesbrough FC and the workers movement – as a sign of solidarity.
A strong police presence was active around Ayresome Gardens, but counter demo organiser, Lawrie Coombs, said: “Every time the fascists come, we’ll stand together. But we don’t anticipate any trouble.”
Councillor Len Junier was a prominent figure, leading the march onto Linthorpe Road Middlesbrough.
As the crowds gathered he said: “We are lucky in Middlesbrough, we don’t have problems with racism.
“We don’t want the EDL splitting our community. We want to celebrate the diversity in our area. But we don’t want to get in anyone’s face.”
Addressing the crowd before setting off, a Counter demo spokesman told demonstrators to avoid the areas that the EDL were reported to be.
Then the counter demo set off along Linthorpe Road to the sound of drums and whistles.
Len Junier led the march while chanting, “Whose streets?” to which the procession replied, “Our streets!“
Passers-by looked on as the march made its way up towards House of Fraser where a series of anti-racist speeches were made.
The words, “We are British, we’re not going anywhere,” were met with applause from the protesters as the EDL gathered just down the Corporation Road.
Around 350 people took part in the EDL demonstration which set off from Corporation Road at around 2pm.
As the crowd set off, turning the corner from Corporation Road onto Albert Road, it wasn’t long before the singing was broken by the sound of a loud bang.
Police were forced to temporarily halt the march after the bang, from what appeared to have been a firework exploding, shocked many bystanders.
Seconds later, a second firework and a glass bottle were thrown from among the EDL crowd.
As it shattered on the footpath outside Middlesbrough Town Hall, at least one woman was injured and was sat at the road side being treated by an EDL first aider – her foot was bleeding.
Before the march, demonstrators had been warned that banners, flags and placards that might incite disorder would be banned along with anything that could be used to cause injury or damage.
Even so, some of the signs held by EDL supporters were openly hostile in their criticism of Islam.
One read: “Islam causes more deaths a day than cancer does.”
Further fireworks exploded as the procession turned onto Borough road.
As the procession passed some Asian men who were standing at the roadside, certain members of the EDL contingent began chanting “Scum, scum scum.”
Then, as the march turned onto Melrose Street, glass bottles and another firework were thrown in the direction of another group of Asian men, one of whom had a child on his shoulders.
Following this police moved the bystanders away from the march and the missiles which were still being thrown.
Mr Hussein, 37, of Southfield Road, was shocked and baffled by the march.
He said: “I’ve lived here all my life, we live a humble life.
“The people in Middlesbrough have never had these problems before and we don’t want them here now.”
Finally, the EDL supporters gathered outside Teesside Crown Court for speaches.
One speaker said: “When will the government admit that there’s an epidemic of child grooming happening right now.
“Street justice, street justice, is far worse than anything the government can do.”
Still on the issue of child grooming, a second speaker said: “Don’t say this is not a race issue.
“The peaceful majority are irrelevant.”
A total of two men were arrested – one on suspicion of possession of an offensive weapon and one on suspicion for assaulting a police officer.
Acting assistant chief constable Ciaron Irvine said: “Clearly there has been some disruption in Middlesbrough town centre to allow these demonstrations to take place, and we are grateful to local residents and businesses for their co-operation.
“We have been working with our local communities and partner agencies including Middlesbrough Council for a number of weeks now to ensure people have been aware of the events and have had the opportunity to contact us if they have had specific concerns.”
Police and crime commissioner Barry Coppinger said: “I attended one of the briefings to police officers this morning and have been out around the town centre observing activities. The whole operation has been well planned and in consultation with our local communities and businesses.
“Clearly the priority for the police today has been to facilitate each demonstration while ensuring the safety of the public and I am pleased that the day has passed off peacefully.”
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 28 June 2014