Tuesday, 26 October 2021

YMCA needs to raise £1.5million for housing

THE YMCA in Henley has until the end of November to raise more than £1.5million to buy housing for its residents.

THE YMCA in Henley has until the end of November to raise more than £1.5million to buy housing for its residents.

The Lawson Road complex, which houses 31 young people, is made up of 21 studio flats and 10 one-bedroom flats.

The charity owns the land but not the housing and intends to buy it after YMCA England announced it was exiting its housing.

It was originally given three years to buy the housing but this deadline has been brought forward.

There has not been an empty property at Lawson Road for more than seven years.

Chief executive Angela Healey said she hoped the money could be raised in time.

“I think it can be done,“ she said. “I guess my main fear is this will have such a knock-on effect across the whole area and it’s not just housing. We’re dealing with people’s homes and lives.

“We’ll remain as social housing but the criteria could change. YMCA England has moved the goalposts.

“I think to lose it would be a disservice to Henley - no one else in this area is housing this age group.

“I think that we’ll do whatever we need to do. It’s about serving this community and it’s a local charity for local people.“ The charity has received an independent valuation on the housing from Savills but is waiting for YMCA England’s own valuation.

Town councillor Kellie Hinton, who lived at the Henley YMCA for more than three years in her early twenties, has joined the board.

She said, “Being an ex-tenant and a community person, I am joining the board to offer more support and to help raise funds and awareness specifically to help save the YMCA.

“I think if it can be done anywhere it can be done in Henley. We have such a great community.

“The YMCA is a valuable asset to the town that we can’t afford to let go. The work it does is invaluable. This place turned my life around and it’s not just me.

“If the money is not raised I think it will probably still be social housing but the problem is it won’t be for local people. You could have people from anywhere getting the housing but we don’t have enough for the young people of Henley.”

Cllr Hinton urged the town council to help.

“While it’s not responsible for housing, it is responsible for looking after the welfare of residents,“ she said. “This is a sad situation to be in. The situation we should be in is ‘let’s raise some money to create another housing estate like this rather than raise money to save this one’.”

She urged people to get in touch with the charity if they could help.

Henley Mayor Martin Akehurst said, “I would certainly support the YMCA. I know through friends and family that anyone can be in need of it. If there’s anything I can do for them I’m more than happy to pitch in.

“At £1.5million you’re probably talking about an organisation or person within Henley to work with the YMCA to find the funding.

“The council doesn’t have large chunks of money we could give them. We have reserves but these are being used to keep council tax down for everybody.

“Currently the YMCA looks at people with a connection to Henley so it’s very much helping local people.

“If it doesn’t raise the money then I understand it would probably go to someone like Soha but then it would be open to everybody.”

The YMCA also provides its residents with education support, such as a money management courses, help with CVs and job hunting, and works with organisations such as Henley youth and community project Nomad.

A spokeswoman for YMCA England said it was thought the transfer process could take up to three years but some YMCAs were ready more quickly so the target date was brought forward to “minimise the period of uncertainty”.

She continued, “We will be working on an individual basis with any YMCAs that require extra time to prepare for the transition.

“If for any reason a local YMCA cannot take over ownership then we will look at alternative organisations or partners.

“However, this will only be as a last resort and before this would happen we would work closely with local YMCAs to explore all options and support their efforts to raise funds or complete the necessary registrations.

“Above all, our focus is to safeguard the vital housing services which we know are invaluable to the people we support.

“Throughout the process, we will work closely with local YMCAs to ensure that the transfer process is smooth, current tenancies continue, residents are extensively consulted and the much-needed supported housing provision will remain.“

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.

More News:

POLL: Have your say