In today’s world it often seems that homelessness is a never ending issue. Youth homelessness in particular seems to be worsening not improving; in fact, half of the people living in homeless supported accommodation are aged 16-24. At World Habitat we showcase existing solutions, and work to help identify new ones, for example through our European End Street Homelessness Campaign. In the community-led housing world there are many examples of organisations which support young people at risk of homelessness before they get stuck in a homeless cycle. This blog looks at some of the organisations offering hope.
Community Campus ’87, England
Community Campus ‘87, which works in Middlesbrough, Hartlepool and Stockton in the North East of England, is one of the more established community-led housing organisations working to aid youth homelessness and provide training and volunteering opportunities for young people. Started in 1987 the charity owns 64 properties which are rented out as supported housing to young people at risk of homelessness. Tenants are supported with tenancy management, personal development, and often employment training. This provides the opportunity to experience the responsibilities of managing and keeping a tenancy, before the young people move-on to live independently in mainstream housing in the social or private sector.
Many young people have managed to secure jobs across the building trade due to Community Campus. For example, one volunteer who was excluded from school at thirteen has worked his way up from a volunteer to become a qualified plasterer. He now works in a local construction firm and says, “Through volunteering with Community Campus I became really interested in plastering and went on to do it at college. I am now earning good money and it has really changed my life”. In fact, 80% of Community Campus apprentices are still in employment two years after joining the team.
As well as equipping young people with skills for life in their training programmes, the building of young people’s confidence and support with things such as tenancies is invaluable. Support workers aid tenants with money and tenancy management. One tenant shared the difference this had made saying, “My support worker helped me to spend my money wisely and ensured I got the gas and electricity sorted in my new home, I did this myself, I am more confident to do things myself”. One tenant who has lived in a Community Campus property for seven years has been inspired by the experience to become a trainee support worker themselves.
The organisation’s focus on key skills beyond the provision of housing means that the young people they engage with get much more than just a home.
East Cleveland Youth Housing Trust (ECYHT), England
The East Cleveland Youth Housing Trust also works in the North East to provide affordable housing. It helps unemployed young people gain experience in building trades including plastering and plumbing through the renovation of empty properties, which are then rented to young people in need. A wider impact is created through these construction skills being used to renovate local community spaces. The trust’s current project is the renovation of an empty community pub. By the end of the project, training and employment for 35+ 16-25 year olds and 180 days of work experience for volunteers will have been achieved.
What’s more, 75% of the trust’s current tenants are in employment and in the last 8 months the trust has helped 60% of these into work. Volunteers are not just involved in construction but also social media to promote the organisation and project planning. This has inspired some tenants and volunteers to start their own projects with a tenant recently setting up a five-a-side football team for young people.
The fact the project aids both those involved in the building work and those living in the new homes is a key strength, giving both groups the ability to kick-start their lives into a positive and stable future. Sustainability is ensured through rent that is affordable and adaptable if tenants’ circumstances change.
May 2017 Update: The renovation of the empty community pub is now complete transforming the property into four flats. The project has generated over 12,500 hours of construction training created 7 apprenticeship positions, become a place of work for 17 volunteers offering between 3 days and 5 months of their time and delivered pre-tenancy work to 8 young people looking for affordable housing. What an achievement! You can find out more here.
Ty Cyfle – Own Two Feet, Wales
The Ty Cyfle – ‘Own Two Feet’ project run by Bron Afon Community Housing is another fantastic project. The project involved the renovation and remodelling of a derelict community centre into supported housing for those aged 16-24 involving young people every step of the way. Bron Afon’s Youth Forum first decided to work together on a homeless awareness project to develop their understanding of homelessness. When the empty community centre became available they decided to create the project which offers a half-way house between a homeless hostel and independent living. Involvement in planning means the young people have built their confidence and management skills. Furthermore, the inclusion of the forum in the development of the scheme means the housing matches the needs of residents. At present many young people who move from a homeless hostel to complete independence lose their tenancy due to lack of support. The Ty Cyfle project recognises and overcomes this problem as it has been designed by those who understand the issues.
Helping young people help themselves
These projects demonstrate that homelessness does not have to be a reality for young people. If you are interested in helping young people to help themselves there is increasing support for innovative projects such as above. Landaid is currently offering support to existing community based housing providers to develop homes for young people through renovating empty properties. The charity offers grants to projects working to end youth homelessness and they support many self-help organisations including Giroscope, a 2015 World Habitat Awards winner. Self-Help Housing offers help for those who wish to get involved in self-help housing and their website offers advice on how to start and develop a project with further case studies and inspiration. The University of Birmingham is currently conducting research into the impact of self-help housing for those involved in the development of the homes as well as the communities who live in them. More information can be found here. In the find out more area of our community-led housing pages you can also find a database of organisations where advice and further information can be gained, and further case studies of community-led housing projects. If you know of any other projects which are helping young people to help themselves please get in touch! You can contact me at kathryn.sutter (at) www.world-habitat.org.
Image credit: Community Campus ’87, East Cleveland Youth Housing Trust, Bron Afon Community Housing