Alan Fraser, Chief Executive of YMCA Birmingham, talks about its latest project, The Vineyard, which provides permanent housing for local young people.
“By coming along to YMCA, a young person can become part of an inclusive community of people of all ages, faiths, cultures and backgrounds. Not ghettoised but included. Not apart from, but part of. That’s our youth-minded community approach.
“Currently, our housing scheme at The Orchard allows young people to stay with us for up to 12 months whilst they undertake employment training and work towards realising their potential. The feedback we’d been receiving was that it would also be really helpful to have more permanent accommodation available to them once they were ready to move on to more independent living. We came up with the idea of a second phase of The Orchard, combining move-on flats with a training and community centre.
“The Vineyard comprises of 34 flats. It not only offers a high standard of living at affordable rates but also provides the security and stability that young people need to build a future for themselves and their families. Since opening in early 2016, the flats have been filled with motivated tenants on longer-term tenancy agreements who are proud to call it their home. In addition to providing much-needed housing for the city, this development also increases our income-generating capacity through the additional rent.
“Alongside the Vineyard we also built The Chris Bryant Centre, which contains a social enterprise coffee shop, a number of training/meeting rooms, and a community hall. This has allowed us to extend the range of training opportunities that we can offer, whilst also providing space for local community groups and organisations to meet. The centre helps us not only to generate more income through our training activities and room hire charges, but also to provide a range of employment, training and volunteering opportunities.
“When we contacted Charity Bank, we were in need of a loan rather quickly. We only had 12 weeks to secure the necessary monies to ensure we could break ground on the intended date and not lose out on the price we’d agreed with the builders. Charity Bank pulled out all the stops to make the deal happen - they were quick, efficient and clear in their requirements, but also flexible and realistic.
“It was important to us to work with a bank that understood the charitable sector and understood the kind of business that we’re in. We wanted to know that our banker was operating to the same ethical standards as we do. Charity Bank saw us as a partner in doing good, rather than just a customer from whom they could make money.
“Working with Charity Bank was just really easy and felt like a breath of fresh air. The support and help offered by the team has been exemplary throughout.”
“Charity Bank saw us as a partner in doing good, rather than just a customer from whom they could make money.”Alan Fraser, Chief Executive
Aleah Walker, 20, is a resident at The Vineyard. She tells us how much it's meant to her to be supported by the YMCA residency programmes.
“Last year I moved into The Orchard, the YMCA's supported accommodation. I wanted to move out of my dad's place and to start living more independently but wasn't sure how to go about it. The YMCA is the perfect first step as you get so much help and advice, as well as a great community of people around you.
“When I heard that a permanent flat was becoming available in The Vineyard, I was really keen. For me to get a flat somewhere else would have been quite difficult I think but with the YMCA the process was so simple. It’s tough to find somewhere like this that’s affordable but still safe and has support on offer so you’re not completely alone. Also, the fact that it’s so central will make going back to work or into education easier. There's even a nursery on site for my daughter.
“I really feel like I have somewhere to call home now, where I can start building a future for me and my daughter.”