Homelessness cannot be solved by one single solution or approach, however, in response to COVID, One YMCA identified a unique opportunity to innovate and adapt at a phenomenal pace through their ‘Dynamic Pathway to Independence’.   

The pathway consists of five distinct services, each with a different specialism and level of support delivered in psychologically informed living environments (PiE). Working with various local authority partners, MHCLG and Homes England, One YMCA secured £2.76 million in funding to develop almost 150 new units of accommodation during COVID. 

All new units form part of the pathway and are specifically designed to meet the distinct support needs and level of independence applicable for residents at that stage of their journey. This allows for delivery of the right support at the right time to ensure each resident can belong, contribute and thrive as they progress towards independence.  

One YMCA completed extensive work with specialist consultants to design this PiE led approach in order to create a living environment that complements and enhances their support, which has previously seen entrenched rough sleepers (street homeless for 5-10 years) maintain tenancies for 12+ months.  

The Dynamic Pathway to Independence has now become a recognisable and scalable model, with commissioners from other counties actively requesting and funding specific stages of it for their own areas. 


YMCA Burton pulled together massively when COVID hit, with staff and volunteers delivering an outstanding service to 10,000 people in need of support. When retail staff were furloughed, their housing staff delivered furniture items to 52 families in crisis, while their outreach staff helped 46 homeless people off the streets and into a local hotel within 48 hours. 

When their foodbank saw a 51% increase in demand during the first 3 months alone, YMCA Burton launched a major appeal for resources to support those who were shielding and recruited a team of volunteers, which meant they were able to deliver 27,000 meals to the community.  

Their Activities Worker kept young residents engaged by providing virtual activities and support, while the team applied for funding to provide all residents with a mobile phone and access to a laptop to help tackle isolation.  

YMCA Burton’s mediation service also moved online, and quickly found that it was supporting members of the NHS who found that the demands and pressures they faced were putting a strain on family relationships. 

In addition, YMCA Burton organized the first-ever virtual Sleep Easy event, raising over £42,000, and subsequently shared their experience with YMCA England & Wales and the wider Federation.

YMCA Derbyshire

Throughout COVID, YMCA Derbyshire regularly adapted its services to meet the ever- changing and increased needs of young people and their community. In delivering one-on-one support, the team quickly realized that many were struggling with poor mental health, food and digital poverty, loneliness and isolation. 

In response, YMCA Derbyshire created more than 1,000 emergency food parcels for individuals and families in need, as well as cooking and delivering more than 200 warm meals a month for those who could not buy fresh produce due to mental health or financial issues.  

Thanks to fantastic relationships with community members, businesses also donated laptops, mobiles and dongles, which came as a huge relief to so many who would have otherwise been completely isolated with no connection to the outside world.  

In addition, YMCA Derbyshire is fortunate enough to have a Community Connector, whose role is to keep in touch with organisations and individuals in the community and keep everyone engaged, which offered vital support during such a challenging time.

2021 Youth Matters Awards Finalists