Homeless plan follows YMCA Norfolk lead
The Government has just announced a £164m package for young homeless people in England, including plans to establish a national network of supported lodging schemes, a move which YMCA Norfolk has already pioneered.
And the Norwich-based Christian organisation is appealing for more potential lodgings providers to come forward to boost its existing scheme.
Communities Secretary Ruth Kelly announced the scheme in which community volunteers would be given training so they could offer temporary homes to young people who would otherwise be sleeping rough. And, after the temporary accommodation, they could be housed permanently, or choose to return to their family home.
Ms Kelly said: "There is much more to do. We cannot slow down, and we are not going to. With nearly 94,000 households still living in temporary accommodation, there is no room for complacency. With vulnerable young people being placed in bed and breakfast hotels, we must do better still."
The government move was welcomed by John Drake, CEO at YMCA Norfolk, which has been running a supported lodgings scheme for several years: “We are very happy that the Government has taken on board the kind of pioneering work that we do here at the YMCA in Norfolk and is looking to extend it.
“We are not a human warehouse, we try to provide holistic support including care, compassion and befriending, mediation and reconciliation. We need to wait and see what will be made available on a local level but at least there is a willingness to tackle this issue.”
The YMCA is currently looking for potential lodgings providers who have a spare room in their house and who would like to help a young person to grow in confidence and gain the skill to take on their own tenancy.
Regular support from YMCA staff and a weekly payment is offered to providers who live in the Norwich City Council or Gt Yarmouth Borough Council areas.
If you are interested you should contact Sue Sayer on 01603 620269 x 27 e-mail email@example.com or Mary Gilbert on 01493 335790
Case study: getting Steph back on her feet:
At the tender age of just 17, Norwich teenager Stephanie Nobbs was homeless, following a relationship breakdown with her parents. She was not welcome at home and after a couple of weeks on a friend's floor, Steph ended up in a bed and breakfast place. She was bewildered, confused and didn't know where to turn to next.
This is when YMCA Norfolk's Resettlement Team stepped in to offer a much-needed helping hand. Support worker Lorraine Chandler was put straight onto the case and she arranged an interview with Steph to try to help her to find a way forward.
"The plan was to find Steph somewhere to live in Supported Lodgings where she could start to find her own feet," explained Lorraine.
"We try to get an idea of the young person's personality and their background and then try to match
them up with one of our regular supported landlords or landladies. We have to be very careful, as we are placing young people in someone's home and we want everyone to get along."
In Steph's case, a suitable place was found in Mile Cross with 23-year old Rebecca Lofts, who was living on her own and could offer Steph a room and some help to move forward.
"I went to see Rebecca one evening with a Support Worker from the YMCA to get to know her," said Steph. "We got on well and I said I would give it a chance. It worked very well. I had my own room, we went halves with the shopping bills and I had to help with tidying up and things like that.
"Rebecca was great, she taught me how to cook pasta, Indian food and even a roast. She took me shopping and helped me to look for the cheaper ranges and taught me how to budget. She also showed me how to use a washing machine and a Hoover."
Meanwhile, the YMCA training scheme was helping Steph in other areas. "Finding a path for the young person is all part of the progamme we can offer," said Lorraine. "Steph did courses in maths, literacy and IT for which she got certificates. She also completed first aid and food hygiene courses. Steph then managed to find herself a placement as a trainee classroom assistant at a local first school."
After three months in Supported Lodgings, Steph became eligible to start looking at the council list of empty properties for her own flat. With the help of the YMCA Resettlement Team she looked at half-a-dozen properties until she found one in Earlham. “I know the area, the people are nice and my family and friends live close by”, said Steph.
Lorraine then helped her to negotiate with the council over the flat and sign up for the tenancy, apply for Housing Benefit and get the electricity, gas and water connected. She also helped to obtain a grant and get some basic furniture into the empty flat.
The YMCA’s furniture project was able to help at this point as they can supply such things as beds, sofas, table and chairs. Lots of people donate things such as crockery and bed linen which are always useful for those starting up home for the first time.
A move on bag is another YMCA idea that helps smooth the transition to living on your own. A large sports bag is filled with a kettle, cutlery, tea bags, tinned food, instant meals and the like.
“We push people gently towards independence” said Lorraine. “Steph managed better than many and kept on top of most things, including getting herself a trainee placement near her flat.
“I have been working at the Northfield First School for over a year now,” said Steph. “It is a job as a classroom assistant for which I am paid a training allowance. I help the kids with spelling and reading and I really enjoy working with the young children.
“Lorraine gave me a lot of help,” said Steph. “I really appreciated it and it helped me a lot with things I didn’t really understand myself. Without the help from the YMCA I do not think I would have been able to get through it all.”
The YMCA is always looking for more potential landlords for their Supported Lodgings scheme in both Norwich and Great Yarmouth. The YMCA pays a weekly fee to the Lodging Provider (which is often tax-free) plus regular support from YMCA staff such as Lorraine and Sue.
YMCA’s Resettlement Team Manager Sue Sayer had a word of encouragement for potential Lodging Providers: “You will know that you are doing something that is really needed and that can make such a positive difference to a young person’s life,” said Sue. “The work can be immensely rewarding to see a young person develop into a responsible adult who is making the most of the opportunities you have opened up for them.”
Pictured above are Stephanie Nobbs with YMCA resettlement support worker Lorraine Chandler.