Families are set to lose out and service users have reportedly been crying down the phone after a support hub was told it will have to leave its premises.

Smile London & Essex, which has been at 52 North Street in Romford for four years, was given just seven days to vacate on April 9, according to chief executive Maria Quaife.

The charity, which has rented for free at its premises, provides services including food and clothing banks, and has previously held events such as a school uniform swap shop last summer.

Maria, who used to operate Smile from a Harold Hill industrial estate before moving to Romford, said a 30-day extension delaying the final day to May 9 had been agreed.

She accused The Raphael Freshwater Memorial Association, said to be the landlord, giving no option to negotiate a deal to stay.

"They're treating us like we've done something wrong," she claimed. "It's [the closure] going to severely impact our families because there's no charity around which does what we do."

Despite the extension, Maria said Smile's plans remain in disarray amid "extortionate" rent on the high street.

It is aiming to raise £20,000 to relocate its charity and has set up a fundraising page.

"It's all panic stations at the moment trying to find that solution," she added.

RELATED NEWS: Children will go hungry without Romford charity, says boss

Romford Recorder: Maria said the impending closure was heartbreakingMaria said the impending closure was heartbreaking (Image: Smile London & Essex)

We approached The Raphael Freshwater Memorial Association, also a registered charity, for a response but they did not respond to our request.

Maria said if Smile fails to find a replacement high street premises, families and people in need would be hardest hit.

"Our clients have been crying down the phone to us," she said.

Maria explained the charity, which employs three people and has five volunteers, has been having to get people in to get their food ahead of its closure.

The looming end has had an emotional toll on her, she admitted.

"It's heartbreaking for me - I founded this, this is my whole life.

"We're making people jobless, there are volunteers here that have been learning really good back-to-work skills that are now going to have to find new opportunities.

"I haven't slept in days."

Maria has since been looking for another high street unit, but high rents have presented a significant obstacle.

Nearby High Street in the town centre had many vacant properties and Maria said she has been in contact with Havering Council to find a possible alternative.

The council said it was "sad" to hear about Smile's potential closure and may be able to house it in one of its vacant units, but said the charity faced competition.

"The charity has been invited to consider alternative premises," a council spokesperson said. "However, their preferred choices are already subject to interest from other parties."

At least 60 families a day rely on Smile's services and despite high town centre rent, Maria said it would be unfair to expect families to go elsewhere.

"When families come to our shop, they don't have that taboo of lining up by the back door.

"People come in and leave crying happy tears from the amount of choice they have, the fact they're respected."

To donate to Smile's fundraiser, visit gofundme.com/f/help-to-relocate-much-loved-charity.