The Upper Room is a West London local charity who have been helping socially disadvantaged people since 1990. Their vision is to support and improve the lives of vulnerable people in our community to help them rebuild their lives, make positive life choices, become more resilient and gain confidence.
Not only does The Upper Room offer practical support (meals, toiletries, clothing, and bedding), but also specialist advice, professional counselling, and support in employment.
With reports recently revealing that one in 58 Londoners is homeless, which is far higher than the rest of the UK, The Upper Room is an incredibly important charity, working to help those in need rebuild their lives and tackle homelessness.
As local West London estate agents, we work closely with The Upper Room through donations, supporting their fundraising events and our new volunteer programme. We took the opportunity to interview Iain Cooper to learn more about the charity, what it does in the community and how we can help further.
About Iain Cooper
At the start of his career, Iain lived and worked in Hammersmith and Fulham for many years until he moved out of London when his children were young. Before converting his career to the charity sector, he was a founding director of a specialist consultancy business running a variety of projects and programmes for UK and International clients.
Iain joined The Upper Room in December as an interim CEO. With his wealth of experience in leading teams and passion for helping improve the livelihoods of others, Iain quickly became the permanent CEO of The Upper Room.
Iain says; “I have always identified strongly with charities focussed on supporting our most vulnerable or disadvantaged citizens and our focus on both immediate/point-of-need services – a hot meal, and longer-term sustainable support focussed on self-reliance. I started on an interim contract but the board quickly asked me to stay on as a permanent – it was a no-brainer for me, the charity does exceptional work and the team here is outstanding.”
What programmes The Upper Room offers
From starting as a soup kitchen on a trestle table in 1990, The Upper Room has expanded into a small team of full and part-time staff, and volunteers who perform a wide range of management, fundraising and administrative tasks alongside running four incredible programmes that provide practical and emotional support to those in need.
Every weekday afternoon The Upper Room prepare, cook and serve hot meals to those who visit who can either dine in or take away. These meals are freshly made on the day by Chef Jude and his incredible team and can vary depending on what food they have available that day.
Anyone can access the service all year round, with no questions asked.
Every week we prepare, cook and serve between 500 – 600 hot meals for people who do not have resources to do so for themselves, this could be because of poverty, this could be because they are homeless or rough sleeping.
The UR4Jobs provides multilingual employment support for those facing challenges and barriers to finding a job. The support can range from travel assistance for a job interview, provision of clothing or equipment, access to courses to assist them with education and training, National Insurance registration, CV writing and housing assistance.
They work directly with several employers to provide job opportunities, apprenticeships, work experience or mock interviews to help build their confidence and self-esteem. Since 2010, 225 ex-offenders have gained a driving license, in many cases, this helps hugely when seeking employment.
People who come to us for help can also get support with gaining employability skills, job seeking, get funding for driving licenses and various work-related certificates.
The Upper Room offer a bilingual (Polish/English) counselling service for people with mild to moderate mental health difficulties, with their counsellor, Alina, who is registered with the British Psychological Society (BPS).
Alina provides one-to-one counselling, group therapy and self-development workshops, offering an opportunity for individuals to talk and be listened to.
Each of these sessions is run in an open and friendly way to ensure that everyone who attends feels welcome, comfortable and able to share their feelings and stories in a non-judgemental environment.
Last year alone, The Upper Room held 470 individual counselling sessions, and 275 beneficiaries received 1-2-1 caseworker sessions.
An award-winning project to help people which aims to break the cycle of long-term unemployment and re-offending among people with convictions.
The service includes attending at least two sessions a week for group workshops and study sessions, with support from staff and informal mentoring. In return for these sessions, individuals have to commit to completing 80 hours of voluntary work, whether that is at The Upper Room or other charities, allowing them to give back to the community and help others.
Whilst the funding of the service is to support people with convictions, they also work with young people who have been identified as being ‘at risk’.
UR4Driving gives individuals practical skills alongside a driving license, which can be a gateway to employment, helping to increase their confidence and quality of life – all strengthening attitudes which help prevent individuals from re-offending.
What challenges The Upper Room is facing
The Upper Room currently serves between 100 – 120 meals per day. However, amid the cost of living crisis and many other societal factors, the charity is seeing the number of people in need of their services increasing and is expecting these numbers to continue to rise.
With the number of visitors rising, The Upper Room is concentrating on improving its services to try and keep ahead of the ever-increasing need, from sourcing its ingredients to increasing its capacity, alongside growing its support and fundraising base.
What are The Upper Room’s most urgent needs?
The team is focused on getting a more robust back office to ensure they have a strong enough platform to cope with the increasing demand and to grow.
For this to happen, they require additional volunteers to help with UR4Meals service alongside individuals with skills in digital marketing, database development, finance admin, project planning and administration.
“We have a big gap between where our social media capability is right now and where it needs to be.” Iain goes on to add “We need to be able to share the stories – both ours and our clients, with existing and new audiences so that people know where to find us if they need help, and so that we can create a larger pool of potential supporters – both volunteers and donors.”
Collaborating with other charities
The Upper Room engage regularly with several similar charities and organisations across West and Central London, including GlassDoor and CAB who provide specialist support.
If they meet people who need help in a different area, The Upper Room liaise with these charities to refer them so that the individual can continue to get the support and help they need.
Where The Upper Room’s fundings come from
The Upper Room have a range of concurrent fundraising activities from grant applications, to events and individual giving. Recent fundraisers have included the Artists at Home Online Auction, Santa Run by The Hogarth Health Club and a generous donation from the organisers of The Chiswick Cheese Market.
They also have a number of new initiatives being developed to broaden their traditional range of funding sources, including developing corporate partnerships and having a structured legacy programme in place.
What does the funding get used for?
The two primary direct cost areas are in the kitchen, with the money helping to cook and serve 500/600+ meals per week, and the employability programmes, including driving lessons, vocational certificates and courses.
Fundraisers planned in 2023
There are a number of fundraisers in aid of The Upper Room to look forward to and join, you’ll often find these featured in our What’s On blogs.
Annual Winter Lecture Series
Starting on Thursday 9th February, Sheila Hancock and Jeremy Vine will be in conversation with Torin Douglas, the former BBC Media Correspondent, and Mallory Horrill will deliver a lecture on the fascinating life and career of William Morris.
The events are free to all, but donations are welcome. Doors open at 7.45pm and the lectures are from 8 to 9 pm.
Quiz Night at Latymer Upper School
Thursday 16th March, 7 pm – 10 pm
Following the successful quiz night last year, The Upper Room are excited to be hosting another fun-filled Quiz night.
Tickets cost £25 per person (plus the booking fee), which includes a platter of fine artisan cheese, paté, special breads and relishes per table all provided by Chiswick Cheese Market and a glass of wine. A bar will also be available for you to purchase soft drinks, and wine.
Tables will seat up to 10 people. There will be prizes for the winners, alongside bonus prizes, and a raffle.
Raffle prizes include:
- Family Photography Experience with Venture Photography
- £20 Gift Voucher – Fullers
- £25 Voucher – Chiswick Cheese Market
- £30 Voucher – Chiswick Flower Market
- £50 Voucher – Honest Burgers
- Fullers Brewery Tour Voucher for 2 people
- One day guest pass to The Hogarth Health Club
- A bottle of Prosecco
Tickets are available to purchase here.
What Iain Cooper wishes more people knew about and the issues they are trying to solve at The Upper Room
Iain mentioned how important it is for people to be aware of; the causes of poverty and homelessness, of what causes offending and re-offending and of the mental health conditions that make it nearly impossible for someone to be self-sufficient, because the more educated we are, the more likely we are to be able to help and overcome the issues.
For every person we see, there is a personal story behind what’s brought them to our door – and we see hundreds of people.
How can you get involved with The Upper Room?
Volunteers are an integral part of the charity, and without their support, the charity would not be able to deliver its service or run its events.
Whether you’d like to make tea and chat with someone who may be homeless, help in the kitchen, support or raise funds for their events, or get involved in one of their new volunteer support roles The Upper Room would love to hear from you.
The Upper Room welcome one-off or regular financial donations, alongside donations of everyday items, such as shoes, clothes, toiletries and staple food.
To hear more about The Upper Room and how to get involved visit their website.