Bristol Wing Entrance

The Bristol Wing, YMCA Bristol

The Bristol Wing opened in Jan 2018 – a boutique hostel in the centre of Bristol with 99 bed spaces in a variety of rooms from dorms to family en-suites. The team at Bristol, led by Ben Silvey, raised funds and had lottery funding to develop the old Police HQ into a fabulous new on trend boutique hostel targeting the discerning traveller and families and groups who wanted to stay in reasonably priced accommodation, with comfy beds, crisp white sheets, a cool Bristol vibe and a location central to all of the city – they were confident they were on to a winner.

But this amazing hostel has a even better ethos – run as a commercial enterprise the money raised for 90 of the bed spaces is used to support work with homeless young people. 9 bed spaces in single rooms are kept free every night to offer to those in high need. As the project is not reliant on funding the housing team can work with those in real need and take a young person off the street into a safe place immediately following their own assessments and protocols. Ben was also successful in gaining further funding to appoint 2 part time chaplains to work alongside the general housing team to offer support to everyone who stays at the hostel but especially to work with the young people. Some young people may only stay a night or two, some a little longer but the aim is to move them onto something more permanent as soon as possible. The project also provides them with access to bathrooms, clean clothes, IT, communal cooking areas with food provided and communal relaxation space.

We wanted these young people to feel a sense of belonging in the hostel and to be a part of it without stigma or embarrassment. We have also found that our commercial visitors love the fact their stay is supporting young people at a time of need. Alongside this, initially when trying to raise funding, we found the local community really backed the project and gave time, energy and money to support us in developing the hostel.

We are really proud of what we have produced in Bristol – a conscious and creative city growing in popularity. We have tapped into a gap in the market and hit a spot where people want a great place to stay but like the fact they are helping others at the same time.

In designing the refurb we wanted to represent the heritage of the building and acknowledge the quirkiness of Bristol – so we employed a street artist to do a lot of the art work, a local marketing company designed our logo and use of the birds throughout the building and we endeavoured to really bring the building back to life whilst respecting its past. We even restored the old cage lift!

The project is financially viable and is actively working with vulnerable young people who would otherwise be on the streets of Bristol – every night of the week!

Garden with greenhouse and wheelbarrow

Sir James Knott House, YMCA North Tyneside

Sir James Knott House is a holistic accommodation experience that provides safety, stability and numerous opportunities for all-round progression for young people experiencing homelessness. The project is an advocate for the power of young people to challenge social stereotypes and create positive associations between homeless young people and positive community spirit.

The project opened in 2015 and has doubled in size in the last 18 months to 36 units. Supporting young people aged 16-25 with multiple and complex needs. The project culture is focused on engagement and progression. Over 80% of the residents are consistently engaged in education, training or employment, some within the YMCA’s own cafe, gym and nursery. Several are achieving excellent academic results and are heading to or at University. The project has developed excellent working relationships with local colleges, businesses, charities and social enterprises.

All young people are supported to access sustainable, relevant opportunities with educational, training or employment options. The young people are achieving amazing things considering their specific barriers and challenges. Last year they won second prize in Fruit-full Communities Orchard competition and continue to travel the country as a good practice example for other YMCAs developing allotments and orchards. Their allotment produces fruit and vegetables used in our cafe. The project has created many training or educational travel opportunities for residents, to develop an appreciation of the wider world and create aspirations.

Young people have travelled to Slovakia, Greece, Ireland, London with planned trips for Bangladesh and Holland. Young people are focused on their community and having a positive reputation. They work alongside local ward councillors in Community Clean Ups and host Coffee Mornings to raise money for local charities. In consultation with young people, we have developed an impact framework which monitors the progress and impact of the project, allowing us to effectively demonstrate successes to funders and supporters.

Y Focus building

Y Focus, YMCA East Surrey

Y Focus provides a regular programme of activity workshops for YMCA East Surrey’s supported housing residents. Sessions range from employability, money management and life skills through to gym sessions and mental wellbeing. 86% of our residents are NEET (not in education, employment or training) and we wanted to give a focus to their day, helping them into a work/education type setting and providing them with useful life and employability skills.

Sessions are held throughout the week, with input from across YMCA services, not just from the housing support workers.

The project has evolved from being open to only a pre-selected group, who would work through a 6 week programme, to being open to all residents. In 6 months, we have successfully helped 96% of young people on the programme into education, employment, or training.

As one resident said, “Y Focus was really good for me. Before I would stay in bed. It is so easy to go into a black hole, which makes you feel even more depressed. Staff helped me with my confidence and made me realise I was ready for work. They helped me see my strengths. Throughout the project, I gained motivation and I was assisted to address issues facing me. I am excited about my future and see a better future now I’m working. Thank you for your understanding, patience and support.”

In 10 months, we have a success rate of 96% helping over 100 young people improve this lives and move into education, employment, or training. Sessions are around four key areas:

  • Life skills
  • Social Skills
  • Health & Wellbeing
  • Money & Finance

Helping Hands sessions will aim to connect residents with the local community and is an excellent way to bring about change on a small, intimate level.

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