The Former Clerkenwell Fire Station, Central London

Moving Forward – The Outside Project Press Release May 2021

Clerkenwell Fire Station – Thankyou and Goodbye!

The UK’s First LGBTIQ+ Shelter and Community Centre has moved from the former Clerkenwell Fire Station into COVID safe premises.

The shelter remained open 24 hours and went into lockdown together in the former Fire Station with no cases of COVID throughout the pandemic.

The LGBTIQ+ homeless activist group campaigned for additional crisis accommodation running an emergency hotel in Soho. They also opened the first LGBTIQ+ domestic abuse refuge in London, Star Refuge, named to commemorate 50 years since the opening of Star House, a shelter launched by LGBTIQ+ homeless activists in New York in 1970. 

The group housed over 150 LGBTIQ+ people in its crisis accommodations across London during the pandemic and continues to run the Shelter and Star Refuge projects 24 hours a day.

In April 2019 London Fire Brigade allowed The Outside Project to make temporary use of the disused Clerkenwell Fire Station as it was prepared for sale. The Fire Station gave us the permanence and security we needed for our LGBTIQ+ winter night shelter to remain open all year round. We were able to build a partnership and lasting friendship with Stonewall Housing, the UK’s oldest and most experienced LGBTIQ+ Housing organisation, with exciting plans for the future of our young project. Plants, flags, art and community donations brought this historic building back to life as the UK’s first LGBTIQ+ crisis shelter. Our Community Centre groups filled the former fire engine garage with art, games, performance, activism and friendship. 

COVID-19 came just a year later forcing our Centre to close and the night shelter to remain open 24 hours. We went into lockdown together in Central London – epicentre of the pandemic – with the little guidance available to us at the time and reports that scared us from residential care homes across Europe. We knew that keeping our LGBTIQ+ shelter open was vital at a time when some venues and support services were being forced to close their doors. 

The fire station gave us the space we needed to increase our service and keep everyone safe. A square of pink astroturf turned the drill yard into a garden for guests to spend time together safely. Community donations of games, sports equipment and food poured in. Thanks to this building and the incredible hard work of our crew we have had no cases of COVID in our service. 

Moving forward – two years later our small community project has grown. The pandemic isn’t over and with the ongoing support of the GLA our shelter is moving forward into a COVID safe building. Our community centre will reopen in a new venue, described best as ‘like moving from the studio to the gallery’. We are looking forward to inviting everyone back! and in partnership with LGBT Consortium we look forward to working with some of the many new LGBTIQ+ grassroots groups that have been emerging during COVID-19. 

We can’t thank the London Fire Brigade and the GLA enough for ‘making space for homeless queers’. We wish them the best of luck with future plans for this beautiful building that became our first proper home and has no doubt saved many lives again. 

The Outside Project Press Release: Moving Forward – Thankyou and Goodbye!

London Fire Brigade Press Release: London Fire Brigade Says Farewell


You can find an introduction and resource list for staff to develop good practice and welcoming services for people who identify as LGBTIQ+ here.


The Pavement, Nov 2020: Queer homelessness activist Carla Ecola explains what motivates their work

Buzzfeed, April 2020: During Lockdown, LGBTQ People Are Finding New Ways To Support, And Entertain Others

The Big Issue, May 2019: Sadiq Khan gives UK’s first LGBTIQ shelter a new home in a fire station

Gay Star News, January 2019: Homeless queer people started our revolution so why do we forget about them?

NBC News, August 2018: Following successful pilot project, U.K. will get permanent LGBTQ crisis shelter

The Guardian, Feb 2018: LGBT and homeless: a cycle of intimidation and ridicule



In collaboration with Emily FleaAfrican Rainbow FamilyVoices4London and Museum of Homelessness and the Painting Rooms Gallery in Soho, London.

Click here to visit our virtual art gallery to see our virtual ‘NO PRIDE’ exhibition.

This exhibition was created with guests of our shelter, STAR Refuge, groups based in the Community Centre and the wider LGBTIQ+ community.

The #MAKESPACEFORHOMELESSQUEERS campaign began at the peak of COVID-19 in April 2020 as part of the Voices4London #queerprotestathome. Hundreds of LGBTIQ+ people joined the virtual protest demanding space for LGBTIQ+ people during the pandemic.

This campaign enabled The Outside Project to stay open 24hrs, open an emergency Outreach and Hotel project and STAR Refuge – a domestic abuse refuge for LGBTIQ+ people.