YMCA London South West: smart design, better housing

YMCAs have been tackling youth homelessness for over a century. Richard James, CEO of YMCA LSW, explains how a Charity Bank loan will help formerly homeless young people learn to live independently.

As our housing crisis continues unabated, YMCAs play a crucial role in making homes available to young people who find themselves homeless. At YMCA London South West we provide housing as well as helping young people to manage their lives, claim their housing benefits and keep up to date with bills.

But working to help young people avoid ever finding themselves homeless again throws up a huge challenge: preparing residents to live independently without YMCA services.

We're facing this challenge head on, building a solution into the design of our accommodation in Surbiton. A loan from Charity Bank is helping us to reconfigure our property so that it better prepares young residents for independent living.

The accommodation itself will be dramatically improved with all bedrooms having en-suite facilities. Bedroom windows, doors and bedroom furniture are being replaced and bedrooms and corridors are being redecorated.

Re-designing how residents live, the hostel will become self-catered with shared kitchens on each floor. An accredited life-skills programme will equip residents to cook and budget for themselves.

While the emphasis is often on the need to build more housing, it's just as important to create living arrangements that help residents build confidence and skills for an independent life.

As the largest provider of housing for the homeless in South West London, last year we helped and housed over 500 people, many as young as 16 years old. By making these simple changes to our Surbiton property, our ambition is to create an environment that enables young people to go on to live independently of our services.

"Our ambition is to create an environment that enables young people to go on to live independently of our services."

Richard James, Chief Executive Officer, YMCA LSW
Ymca Lsw Life Skills 2

A YMCA life skills session