Sunderland community groups left homeless as centre closes

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A CENTRE at the heart of a community has shut after running out of cash.

A host of organisations in are today without a home, after the demise of the Swan Street Centre.

Among those hit are a football club, dance school and group of artists who met there.

Kylie Henderson, 28, from Southwick, ran a dance school for three to 18-year-olds at the centre with friend Amanda Woodhouse, 31.

She said: “We need to find a venue nearby as most of the kids live around the area.

“If we don’t get a venue then they haven’t got a dance school, and they’ve got a competition in four weeks so they need to practise.”

Not-for-profit organisation North East Sport Community Interest Company ran football sessions for toddlers at the centre.

Director Chris Johnson said: “This is yet another blow for Southwick and the wider city.”

He added: “Unfortunately in the current climate, we’re only going to see more great projects closed down.”

One club, Oblivion youth group, has managed to find a temporary new home, but there are also fears for the building itself.

Roker artist Ian Potts fears it will now become a target for vandals.

“We were told they were not making enough money and would have to close it down,” he said.

“It is just going to be left empty and it is a massive building – we all know what happens to empty properties.”

The decision by Wearmouth Community Development Trust has left three workers out of a job.

Director June Robinson, from Fulwell, has been with the project since its launch in 1997.

She believes the closure of the former school will leave a massive gap in the Southwick community.

“We have tried every viable option and alternative, and unfortunately the board of directors has had to decided we can’t continue.

“We have insufficient income to cover the costs of the centre, so we have to close our doors.

“It is going to have a massive impact on the young people in the area.”

She added: “Although it is closing, it has had massive achievements, creating thousands of jobs through the training programme.

“We still keep in touch with people who have got degrees and gone on to get really good jobs and there have been health benefits from various things we have done.

“The community has been absolutely brilliant – really supportive and really sorry it has come to this.”

Helping others to the end, the centre has donated its equipment to projects across the city, including the Project Gambia 2012 run by Box Youth Project in Hall Farm, which plans to refurbish a school in the poverty-stricken African country.

However, the loss of the Swan Street Centre still comes as a fresh blow for one of the more deprived wards in Sunderland.

Youth worker Peter Curtis, from North East Sport, hoped to transform run-down Southwick Sports Hall into a hive of activity.

But council officials turned down his organisation’s bid to take on the hall’s lease.

It has since been sold to an unnamed buyer as part of cost-cutting measures and is still standing empty.

Twitter: @janethejourno