Community focus: The Collective Sharehouse

During the latest lockdown, Year 10 student, Olly Garner Steel, went to see what goes on at the Collective Sharehouse. The pop-up project based at the Scarcroft School Learning Centre aims to collect food and goods to be distributed to local individuals and families who need additional support during the pandemic.

Olly said “I’d heard that the Collective Sharehouse was doing a really important job during the pandemic. I’d also seen in the news and on social media that lots of people are struggling to get enough money for food and I wanted to find out what people in our community are doing to help.

The Collective Sharehouse is a pop-up service based at Scarcroft School Learning Centre that supplies food, clothes and shoes for kids, and other necessities like cleaning supplies to people that need it. They have a ‘take as you feel’ approach which provides customers with dignity as they get to choose which items they can have.

They also provide the option to create a list of items the customer would like to have. During the current lockdown, there’s a number of ways this can happen including an online ordering option and also the option for people to give the centre volunteers a list of items they would like to have.

It is a ‘collective’ which means there are many different people that all come together to allow it to work smoothly. It is a ‘Sharehouse’ meaning that people share what they have and need; some come to take things they need and others drop items off. Each time a household comes to take items or collect an order it is counted as a share, they average around 50 to 60 shares a week. This shows how important places like this are in the times we are living in now. The pandemic has made lots of local families lose part or all of their income and having a place to share without spending money is a huge help.

The entrance of the Sharehouse looks colourful and inviting even though it was a cold, dark, rainy morning when I visited! It is set out like a corner shop inside and all the items are arranged neatly in sections. Each day, the volunteers put out a list of the most necessary things the Sharehouse needs, so people can go shopping or go back home to bring things they already have and want to share.

I met with David and Diane Rowsell who helped set up the Collective Sharehouse in October last year with many other volunteers to help support families in the local area. There were plenty of people in the local community who wanted to get involved either by donating items or by volunteering.

David said he was inspired by the work of Marcus Rashford when he campaigned for better funding for children who get free school meals. David, who is a former teacher, also told me he wants to help young people understand more about food poverty and the causes of people struggling with money. Diane said they use the guiding ideas of the Sharehouse to make decisions about how to run the collective. Those principles are Service, Dignity and Safety.

The Collective Sharehouse is trying to help the community by linking up different people’s needs and surpluses. It tries to respond to the local people instead of telling them what to do. The idea is “with the people, not to them.”

I think it’s always been important to help out when we can because you never know when it will be you who needs the help. The pandemic has brought lots of our struggles to the surface and lots of people have found it difficult to pay for everything they need.”

If you would like to share or take items you need, you can go along to the Collective Sharehouse on Monday, Thursday and Friday mornings from 9.15-11.00am and Wednesday evenings from 5.00-7.00pm. They take donations of non-perishable foods and also household and toiletry items. They regularly publish a list of needs on their facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/thecollectivesharehouse. You can also contact them by email: thecollectivesharehouse@gmail.com.