A new building will be opening for business next month. Here, LEE BUSS explains why South London YMCA is important for some of Croydon’s most vulnerable people
Over the past five years, we’ve been implementing a major strategy to replace our existing buildings with new modern facilities.
Across the borough, this strategy has provided five new buildings with a total of 206 places for local people with a range of needs. As well as dramatically improving the standard of accommodation, it has greatly improved the local environment by replacing tired, old buildings, with well-designed facilities of the highest environmental standards.
In the centre of Croydon, two South London YMCA buildings (on Lansdowne Road and Dingwall Road) have housed a total of 237 residents for many years. On the conclusion of our re-provision programme we will continue to have two services in the Lansdowne area: Palmer House (Lansdowne Road) which houses 60 people, and the new Alexandra House (on Dingwall Road) which opens in July and will house 80 people.
We are therefore reducing the total number of hostel residents in this area from 237 to 140. At the same time we are increasing on site staffing and have dramatically improved the quality of our accommodation.
Alexandra House will provide high quality shared and self-contained flats for people with lower needs than those at Palmer House. All referrals will continue to come from Croydon Council. Many people who live at Alexandra House will have gone through a journey of self-improvement and no longer need support to live independently. Often these people will either be in – or actively seeking – work, education or training.
But why have these services in our community at all?
Croydon YMCA (which merged with Lambeth YMCA in 2005 to form South London YMCA) was founded in 1861. The local people who founded the organisation identified people in their community who were vulnerable, in need, and who required extra support to help them to be productive members of that community.
Society has changed a great deal since then, but those initial reasons for our existence are still very real. Our residents are not “set aside” from the community or imported from elsewhere. They are already part of the community, but need additional support to make positive changes in their lives. Most of our residents, having had that support, can then turn their lives around, contribute and give back to our community in a more positive way.
Take, for example, someone we can call “Eric”, for the purposes of this article. It may not be his real name, but it is a very real story.
Eric was a 19-year-old man on a Community Service Order following his conviction for burglary. He was referred to us for accommodation by his Offender Manager at Probation. He said his life goal was a career in sports management. He also wanted support to comply with statutory orders, to re-establish contact with his family and improve his literacy and numeracy.
Eric also wanted to develop his interest in football coaching. He agreed this was a big step forward, but saw this as a means of moving away from his former lifestyle and associates, towards his longer term career goal.
We agreed to support him by providing a small personal budget for equipment and fees for his coaching badge. He later joined a weekend coaching project for younger children in the community. Eric later said these activities enabled him to make new types of friends, improve his self-esteem and social skills. He also reflected how completing his Community Service Order had improved his relationship with his family, who he now visits on a regular basis.
Eric’s story is just one of many which demonstrate how our support has helped someone to stop offending against our community, and give something back. His story may well have ended differently were it not for the existence of the services at South London YMCA.
We are committed to continuing to provide these much-needed services of the highest quality to local people long into the future.
- Lee Buss is director of business services at SLYMCA. You can follow him on Twitter @slymcalee
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