Azalea's story began in January 2007 when a few local people got together to think about how they could engage and serve the women working on the streets of Luton.
Azalea was set up with the aim of listening to, valuing and supporting these women.
In 2017, an Allchurches’ grant of £1,250 helped Azalea to develop its Recovery Centre programme and reach out to many more vulnerable women.
A 2020 grant will enable Azalea to branch out further and focus on its ‘Thrive’ initiative, which supports women to leave their life on the streets behind, and gain the skills they need to live safely in the community.
The Azalea team visit the women working on the streets at night and provide practical support. “Sometimes we can stop just long enough to offer a smile and something to eat. At other times we are able to have a much longer chat, or point women in the direction of our ‘Drop-in’ and other local services.”
The £2,500 funding from Allchurches will provide Azalea with equipment to run a barista skills training programme, to give women the opportunity to access stable employment and connect with the wider community.
The project will run on Saturday mornings, with formal teaching of the ‘coffee skills’ module for up to six women, and after lunch Azalea will run the other six modules, followed by skill share time for any women that have completed the initial training.
This project is more relevant than ever, in light of the COVID crisis. Lockdown and emergency housing has given many women the chance to distance themselves from the streets and open up their lives to different opportunities.
Azalea has been open for more hours over this uncertain time, with a small dedicated team running activities. Several women have made amazing progress towards exiting exploitation and new equipment and resources will help them to sustain this change and build new lives.