This week we sat down with founder of Dad’s House, Billy, to discuss their work in Earls Court and what he loves about the area.
Thank you so much for talking to us today. What is Dad’s House role within our Earls Court? What does that contribute to the area and to the community?
We are a single dads charity. Our focus is helping single dads and their children. So going from 12, 13 years ago, when I first set up Dads House, we launched the cooking class, and breakfast club, to teach dads to cook is so important, especially to teach with the children is absolutely amazing. They’re cooking together, having fun together, and actually sitting down and having lunch together as well. From there, I launched a community foodbank. From the feedback I received, it was actually more Mums that were turning up. That’s really how the foodbank grew. It was all accidental, you know, so now the foodbank is a community foodbank for anyone who needs a helping hand, and I think 40% of all our clients are from Earls Court. From November to January, we had seven and a half thousand visits to our foodbank, which is unbelievable.
Have you seen an increase in lockdown? Specifically?
Yes, previously to lockdown we were only helping between 60 and 100 families a week which varied weekly, because some families were on different kind of benefits, and we’re getting a benefit so didn’t need the food bank, or they just needed a little bit. I think, going back to South London from the beginning of March that’s when figures really start to climb. Both in South London and West London had gone from between 50 and 100 to our largest was 670 families in one day in South London. And West Brompton we’re helping between 215 to 320 families a week. As much as it is a food bank we are a been a hub for the community.
How much of your work is split between the classes and the foodbank?
Well the classes… we’re going to start a new zoom class for dads. It’s going to be a pizza night so we’re going to send a pizza to the dads and kids, so that we could all take part together so that’s going to be quite exciting. And the thing is with what we do. Every day is different. We never know who’s going come through the door. What telephone call, what email, we do referrals from Hammersmith, RBKC, Westminster social services. It’s pretty unbelievable, on a daily basis what we do. That’s family law included in that, and also drug tests, alcohol tests and blood tests. So yes, we do a lot and we never get bored.
So is that your favourite part of running Dad’s house, the variety?
Oh no everything, everything I love it. I wake up every morning and I just jumped out of bed, you know? And it’s just something that I’m passionate about, everything that we do. Whether it’s football, breakfast club, food banks, meet a dad just have a coffee and let them know everything’s going to be okay. You know?
How did you come to set up the charity? What was your motivation, your inspiration?
I’m a single dad, and I didn’t know how to cook when I had my son Sam. I had no idea. I couldn’t change a nappy. I didn’t know anything about anything and there wasn’t anything available. There’s still very, very little available for dads and their children now, you know. And just to go and learn to cook in a fun environment is so important. But also, no one to judge you on your cooking skills and just having a chat, letting someone know it is going to be okay.
How long have you been in Earls Court?
13 years, two years of research trying to find a premises where I can provide accommodation. And to prevent dads of the children from being homeless which has never been done. That’s my other aim is to get everything under one roof, what we’re doing now, but including accommodation and that.
Branching out into accommodation, it’s your overall goal?
Yes, we used to house dads. That was all up in North London, Stoke Newington, but that was a lot of legwork. Unfortunately I didn’t have the resources to keep doing that.
Do have a particular thing that you love about Earls Court? And memories, something about the community or the culture in Earls Court.
Earls Court is vibrant. What’s great about Earls Court is the community, it’s something that is so important where everyone’s helping each other, especially during lockdown. And it’s remarkable when a bunch of organisations get together and they go, okay, we can do that, and I know someone who can do that, and there’s little feelers that will fill it out. And we do help neighbours. We get food to people who are shielding and isolated and disabled. It’s something that is the most simplest thing in the world you know, to help your neighbour, but previous to lockdown it didn’t happen as much as it obviously is happening now. So I say the Earls Court community has really come together and is leading the way.
So you definitely notice like a leap from before lockdown to now, do you think that will continue even after lockdown is over?
Yes, I think so. I think the community and Earls Court, is more people have got to know what’s going on. More people have got to know their neighbours again for the first time in years and for a long time they didn’t know their neighbours. Now people are knocking on someone’s door and asking if they’re okay, like it used to be.
Do you have a favourite human of Earls Court? Someone who lives in earls court who you think is really great, maybe someone in your organisation or who has inspired you? Or anything like that?
Yes Toby from TLC Estates, he’s such a lovely guy and he does so much. Yes. Oh, I don’t know he’s chairman of the Earls Court magazine or something like that. But I see what he does in the community. And he never stops. I’ve only met him three or four times but he’s always stood out because he’s passionate about Earls Court, and he loves Earls Court. He loves the community, you know, and he knows everybody in the community, really knows everybody.
What do you want for the future of Earls Court as the area emerges from lockdown?
Yes coming back to the communities which goes back to people taking a little bit of time to, to get to know their neighbour, to find out what’s going on in the community, how they can volunteer for one of the charities or just do something in the community, you’re not going to be bored. Because the next couple of years are going to be tough, you know, furlough’s going to come to an end. Shops and businesses are going to be opening, that’s if they do open. So there’s going be a lot of worry and stress and that’s where the community can come and help people who need a helping hand, because I think a lot of families are going need it.
Can people volunteer at Dad’s House?
Yes, we have a waiting list that is unbelievably long. Our volunteers never leave. They absolutely, absolutely love it, because as much as we are single dads, as much as we’re a foodbank, we’ve got so much going on. As I say we’ve got breakfast clubs, we’ve got football, we’ve got cooking classes, and all that interlinks with what we do…
Tell us a bit more about the football?
We have five asides for dads. And we used to have kids, but it was too many dads kicking the kids… That’s too much competition. We are resuming on 29th of March and I am super duper looking forward to having football.