We are a diverse group, with varied backgrounds, ethnicities, religions, political views and occupations. We always maintain an equal gender balance in the house. Our youngest resident is 19 and our eldest is 79. Some of us have significant care needs and others do not. To differing degrees, we all rely on support from the community for our physical and emotional well-being. Below we include some biographies of community members.
“This community has allowed me to stay living independently”
Hello there, I’m Keith. I’m a 79 year old Scotsman, and I’ve lived here for 30 years. I came down to London many years ago to pursue my own personal growth and found this community as a place to live. I was working as a social worker at the time.
IPS community for me is home. The people I live with I regard as my brothers and sisters. Through them I’ve learned a great deal about myself. This community has been a source of great joy to me and living with so many different people has given me the opportunity to learn other languages, share music (through jam sessions etc) with musicians from all over the world, and be surrounded by beautiful friendly people on a daily basis. I have many memories of fantastic birthday parties that we have celebrated together over the years.
Keith by the same kitchen table in the 1990s
For much of my time in the house I was able to put my background in nursing and social work to good use to support other residents. But, as I’ve grown older, this has changed and I now increasingly rely on support from other people. In recent years I have developed both diabetes and Parkinson’s disease and this is a huge challenge to me. I benefit greatly from the generosity, friendship and support given to me on many levels both physical and emotional. Without this support, I would have found myself in difficulty with getting my needs met independently.
This style of living is one which I am convinced would be attractive to many people! I will continue to live here as long as I possibly can.
“I don’t like this house at all! Just joking :-)”
Hello there. My name is Rupert, and people call me Rupes. I’m 52 years old. I came here through social services from a children’s home when I was 16, and I’ve lived here ever since; 37 years.
When I first arrived, I came for dinner, but I didn’t like what they were cooking (salmon of some sort). I’m a very fussy eater, so Mike Lloyd (who used to live here) took me to the local chippy. Then we came back, sat round the dinner table, and started meeting people.
I never smoked, but there was a lot of smoking back then! Now you can’t smoke anywhere in the house, and I think that’s bad.
I came and stayed for a week, my trial week, and they accepted me.
The first years were good. I saw many people come and go.
I had learned how to cook at school, and so really enjoyed making dinners for many people in the house. The birthday cakes I baked made me popular! Also my quiches are really good. I’ve done many different jobs in the house; always did DIY, did the weekly house shop for years. In fact, I’ve done pretty much everything except for Treasurer; can’t be doing that. Too much hard work.
These days I’m getting old, even though everyone says I look young as always. In 1996 I found out I had a tumour and it was removed from my pituitary gland. In 2010 I found out I have myeloma, a cancer to do with my blood.
Some people here help me out with hospital appointments when I go for my check ups. Some help me with looking after my finances. I keep myself busy with small re-decorating jobs around the house.
All my life I’ve lived with other people. If I had to leave here I’d get get really stressed out. With all the bills and everything coming in. I’ll need help. I don’t want to move out. I’ve lived in Islington all my life.
“This is just a wonderful, wonderful place to live.”
I moved into the house in the 1970s. I was a Patchwork employee at the time and, after a number of years in their short-life properties, I was offered a place at Islington Park Street. I was told that I had a “home for life.” After years of insecure housing, I was really pleased to be offered something secure.
To start with, living communally mostly appealed to me for financial reasons. I was on a very low income, and the economic benefits of sharing appliances and utility bills were a major draw. You’ve got everything that a single person needs here; there is all the facilities that you’d find in a family home. If I was living in a bedsit, like I was in my 20s, I’d be going down the laundrette all the time and buying small expensive portions of food just for me. This is so much better. But it’s not just that, people are really supportive of each other here too. When times are hard, there is always food on the table. I’ve got in debt a few times over the years, including with my rent, but other members of the community supported me and gave me time to pay back my arrears.
Graham as a new resident in the 70s
It’s a simple truth that if you share your life with other people, you’re going to get human contact in return. It’s not possible to feel lonely in this house; there’s always someone around to talk to. I’ve met so many people, and a really broad range of people too. Some of them I might have preferred not to meet, but you can’t have everything…
If you’re sick here, someone will come and check in on you, and bring you food and a cup of tea. If I was living by myself, it might be weeks before anyone noticed I’d not been around. I’ve had a quadruple heart bypass, so this kind of support has been really important to me.
I’m retired now, and I spend a lot of my time in the house; I’m always fixing things and doing the plumbing. I support Keith a lot in his day-to-day tasks. I also do a lot of work on the garden, which is my pride and joy. It means a lot to me to contribute to the community in this way and to know that my work is appreciated.
I am really grateful that I have lived so many years in this community and I hope that it continues long after I’m dead and buried.
“To support and be supported is an extremely healthy and fulfilling way to live.”
When I was in my teens, I came to London by myself in order to escape abusive parents. I’m proud to say that against the odds I managed to graduate from university and am now establishing myself in a career that I really love. But having no contact with family through necessity has always been challenging and in recent years I found that I was no longer coping with life’s setbacks.
I had been fortunate enough to make an amazing group of friends but suddenly they were all abandoning London for more affordable places as far away as Germany, America, and New Zealand.
In the months before I discovered the existence of Islington Park Street, I had become quite isolated and had reached a point where I could no longer allow myself to stand on balconies or rooftops for fear that I would jump. So in spite of being a very proud person, I tried all the obvious things to help myself: I went to my GP, made some lifestyle changes, attended various forms of counselling and therapy, but nothing seemed to do any good.
And then I moved into Islington Park Street.
I cannot tell you how astounded I was by the instant calm I felt to wake up there after my first night as a resident. It is impossible to stay depressed when an elderly Scottish man is telling tales of his rebellious teenage years over breakfast. Or when you are peeling enough potatoes to feed eighteen hungry housemates! What it boils down to is this: I never realised I didn’t feel safe until I did. And I don’t exaggerate when I say that Islington Park Street has saved my life.
To support and be supported, to share space and food and skills, to have the company of such a diverse group of people, of such varying ages and backgrounds, is an extremely healthy and fulfilling way to live.
I am a current resident and – due to that aforementioned pride – I have never discussed my own background or mental health issues with the other residents. I am a very private person but feel so strongly about the threat of eviction that I am compelled to speak out, albeit anonymously. Communities such as ours help people to thrive who might otherwise be overwhelmed by their circumstances.
Current and former residents include ex-prisoners (who have not re-offended within this supportive environment), cancer survivors, adults with special needs who grew up in care, victims of domestic violence, and of course, people who had difficult beginnings such as myself who, statistically, should be in trouble with the law, homeless, addicted to heroin, or even dead. Our home single-handedly takes huge pressure off the NHS, the police force, and many many other services.
I no longer attend therapy and don’t see myself needing to for as long as I have the security and support of Islington Park Street. Our community categorically cannot be destroyed and should be used as a model for new communities so that other Londoners can have the opportunity to live in this way.
Hi I’m Karen. I love my home here at Islington Park Street where I’ve lived for several years. I heard about this community when I was living temporarily with a local family and needed to find somewhere more permanent. To me, this community is a place of warmth and friendship with people who I wouldn’t necessarily have expected myself to be sharing a home with, but people who I have grown to appreciate deeply. I love shared meals especially, which are a source of fun and togetherness.
I work as a singer-songwriter part time and a support worker for adults with learning disabilities part time. I love my ‘day job’; I’ve always helped pay the bills doing various different kinds of care work and I am also able to use my caring skills to support others in the house who are vulnerable. Others are always around to help me out with their skills- be it IT skills, DIY, or good company when I need to unwind or am having a low moment. I believe in the original vision of this community as set out by it’s founders in 1976- a mutually supportive permanent home for people with mixed backgrounds, needs and abilities. I believe passionately that society needs more of these kinds of communities, not less, and that at the very least there is still a place for this kind of community, and that it should not be ‘phased out’ as One Housing are trying to do. We are a working model of how communal living can tackle social isolation of vulnerable people, sharing resources as a response to our environmental crisis and we also demonstrate an alternative to an insane housing climate.
On a personal level, sharing resources with others in the way we do means that I have been able to afford to spend time on my music and since living here I have recorded my debut album which I am just about to release. I live a very ‘hand to mouth’ existence and know that I wouldn’t be able to afford to live in London if it weren’t for this house.
“Affording to go to university is now a realistic possibility for me.”
Hi. My name is Ian and I’m 19 years old. I was born in Milan, but I moved to London with my mother when I was 4 years old, following the separation of my parents. I have spent most of my youth living in Hackney, just a short walk from Highbury.
When I was 15 we had to leave the family home that we’d been renting as my mother and step-father separated. My mum works part-time for the NHS and, as a result of rent rises in Hackney, she couldn’t afford to rent somewhere just for the two of us locally. I didn’t want to move away from the area where I had grown up; I wanted to stay living close to my college at Angel and my friends.
My dad had moved to Islington Park Street Community ten years previously, in order to be closer to me, and I’d visited the community quite a lot while I was growing up. Although minors are not usually accepted to live in the community, because I was already 15 and in a difficult situation, the community agreed to allow me to stay temporarily.
I loved my time there and when I turned 18 I applied to be a permanent resident. I was over the moon when my application was accepted. Living somewhere where the rent is affordable has opened up new options for me. I applied for an internship when I finished college and I was offered the placement. The wage isn’t great, but because my living costs in the community are low, I’m managing to save some money. The combination of these savings and the availability of student loans means I’m now considering attending university in the future.
A lot of the other interns I work with think that it’s unlikely that they will be able to attend university for financial reasons. For many of them, their lack of funds is a direct result of the current housing crisis in London and the exorbitant cost of rents. I feel incredibly fortunate to be living at Islington Park Street Community.
I’ve grown a lot as a person since moving into the house. Many of my friends only hang out with people of their own age. Here, I interact with people of all different ages and backgrounds and I feel like my outlook is far broader as a result; it’s amazing to live somewhere with such diversity.
I’m treated as an equal in the community and I’ve taken on roles of responsibility; I’m currently the assistant treasurer. I’ve also learned a lot about communication and diplomacy and these skills have proved useful in other areas of my life.
I would recommend communal living to everyone. It’s a fantastic way of life that promotes values such as integrity, respect and maintaining a connection between people. The only problem is that there aren’t more communities!
Wishing you a long life as an ongoing community and the strength to continue with your fight to achieve that. Hi to Graham and Rupert – glad to see them still part of the life of Park Street after all these years (I lived at the house for 4 years in the early 80’s). Just saw them both on the Inside Out programme…and the fig tree! The community was a friend to me back then, helping me adjust to a new, single life and enabling me to go to uni. Thanks for everything.