Dalston centre launches to help ex-offenders break cycle of crime and prison

Current and former volunteers at St Giles, Andy Tindall (centre) and Frank Harris. Photo Matt Cetti-

Current and former volunteers at St Giles, Andy Tindall (centre) and Frank Harris. Photo Matt Cetti-Roberts - Credit: Matt Cetti-Roberts

A specialist centre offering a life line to ex-offenders who want to turn their backs on crime has opened in Dalston, run by the St Giles Trust.

The Elise Centre in Dalston Lane offers practical advice and support to people looking for work and improving their skills and qualifications.

Guests at its official launch last Wednesday heard first-hand accounts from people who had overcome many barriers to move rebuild their lives.

These included Frank Harris who spent decades in a trapped in a cycle of addiction, homelessness and crime, but is now studying criminology at university with his past firmly behind him.

“I’m now evolving as opposed to being stuck in a revolving door,” he said.

Another speaker was 39-year old mother of five, Sekara, who contacted St Giles Trust after a fruitless job search.

Not long ago she had a bright future ahead of her at university qualifying to become an occupational therapist, however, a minor conviction from the past caught up with her meaning she had to leave both her job and course.

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Through St Giles Trust she qualified as a peer advisor and NVQ Assessor and gained employment and is about to start university to qualify as a teacher.

The centre opened six months ago after the transferral of funds and staff from ex-offenders support organisation Foundation Training Company to St Giles Trust.

The charity trains people with convictions to provide peer-led support for others trying to successfully rehabilitate.

Rob Owen, the chief executive of St Giles Trust, said: “We’re very proud to be able to make a difference in Hackney and look forward to helping 250 people turn their lives around this year.

“We really appreciate the support we’ve had from the local community, local partners and funders of the service – especially our cornerstone funder The Big Lottery.”

The Trust aims to break the cycle of crime, prison and disadvantage and create safer communities by helping people to change their lives.