YMCA launches £570,000 appeal to buy ‘vital’ homes
AN appeal has been launched to raise almost £570,000 to buy housing for young people in
AN appeal has been launched to raise almost £570,000 to buy housing for young people in Henley.
The YMCA wants to purchase the lease on the accommodation at its Lawson Road complex, which houses 31 young people.
The move comes after YMCA England announced that it is exiting housing and is selling the property it owns.
The Henley branch owns the land in Lawson Road but not the 21 studio flats and 10 one-bedroom flats, which have been valued at £566,500.
Now it is appealing to the community to help raise £300,000 of the total with the rest hopefully coming from loans and grants. It has until the end of March 2017 to buy the lease.
Chief executive Angela Healey said that to lose the accommodation would be a “disservice” to the town.
There has not been an empty property at Lawson Road for more than seven years.
Mrs Healey said: “It really is a jewel in the crown as far as housing for young people is concerned. There are many other parishes and towns that would give their right arm for a facility like this.
“I suspect this would always be housing in some shape or form but I’m not sure the priority would be to our young people.” The Henley YMCA branch was founded in 1857 and has been based at its current home for 15 years. It provides accommodation for 16- to 25-year-olds with nowhere else to go.
Deputy Mayor Julian Brookes, who is a trustee, said: “It’s for Henley people and it’s a Henley institution and that’s why we want to keep it.
“I think it does an excellent job in turning round youngsters who have had some bad breaks in life. We can help them in becoming participating members of the community again.”
Councillor Brookes said the charity helped young people with budgeting, writing CVs and applying for jobs.
“We’re not just putting a roof over their head, we’re trying to pick them up and put them back on the right track,” he added.
He said that about £50,000 would come from the charity’s reserves and it would ask for a £170,000 loan from South Oxfordshire District Council and £50,000 from Henley Town Â Council.
So far, £93,250 had been raised from donations from trust funds and individuals.
Town councillor Kellie Hinton, who lived at the Henley YMCA for more than three years in her early twenties and is now a member of the board, said: “We’d rather not be in the position of fighting to keep the only housing dedicated to young people in Henley but I do believe it’s a realistic sum to raise.
“Obviously it’s not going to be easy because it’s a huge sum and there are other organisations in the town that need just as much money, or money to continue what they are doing.
“But I do believe if anyone can raise it it’s the team at Henley YMCA because they are a great bunch of residents and a great staffing team.
“The main thing is raising awareness. There are people who don’t know the full extent of the work that goes on at the YMCA.
“It speaks volumes that there hasn’t been an empty flat there for more than seven years.
“It gave me the stability and confidence that I needed so by the time I started my family I was in a position where I was stable, secure and happy with life and ready to move on.”
Former mayor Elizabeth Hodgkin, whose daughter Sarah, now 34, lived at the YMCA in her twenties, said: “She’d come back from being abroad and there was nowhere in Henley for her to live. Living with her peers was very important. She got great support down there.
“It really concerns me that we would lose this for young people. It’s extremely beneficial and it keeps that independent living, which is very important. It’s absolutely vital we keep it.”
Former chief executive Mike Ray is helping the charity gain Homes and Communities Agency approval so that it is recognised as a housing provider in its own right.
In December 2013, YMCA England decided that all its supported housing schemes should be locally owned as well as managed, so it could concentrate on the work of the YMCA at a national level.
As well as housing, the charity provides its residents with education support, such as money management courses, help with CVs and job hunting, and works with organisations such as Henley youth and community project Nomad.
An open afternoon will be held at Lawson Road on Tuesday (October 13) from 10am to 4pm and all are welcome. The charity’s annual general meeting will be held on October 28 at 7pm.
The YMCA also needs to raise £200,000 to refurbish its flats.
The current kitchens and bathrooms were put in when the accommodation was built in 2000 and are showing their age. The cost of replacing one kitchen or one bathroom is £3,000 to £3,500.