Community pulls together to support vulnerable young people

A charity has been amazed with the response after a call out to the community for food.

Wednesday, 22nd April 2020, 11:29 am
Updated Wednesday, 22nd April 2020, 11:30 am
YMCA DownsLink Group project workers Matt Grandison and Karina Peel hidden by mountain of food donations.

Charity, YMCA DownsLink Group, has a mission to tackle the causes of youth homelessness. Amongst a range of services, including youth advice centres, counselling and family mediation services, it also provides a safe home to around 1,400 vulnerable young people across Sussex and Surrey.

The young people, living in both supported and transitional housing projects in Brighton & Hove, were finding it difficult to access food, so YMCA DownsLink Group reached out to the local community.

Matt Grandison and Karina Peel, YMCA DownsLink Group Project workers, said: “COVID-19 has undoubtedly changed the landscape for us and our young people. With new restrictions placed on us and the endless panic buying it was seeming harder than ever for our young people to safely get hold of the supplies they needed. Food banks across Brighton are seeing an influx of referrals and the pressure has been on to meet the new-found needs of the city.

YMCA DownsLink Group, project worker, Matt Grandison with food donations

“It seemed that there were lots of people willing to help, we just needed to reach them. So Isabella Hart, one of our project workers, got in touch with COVID-19 Mutual Aid UK, a group of volunteers supporting local communicates by coordinating care efforts for those most at risk. We created a drop off slot for people to donate food and reached out through a local WhatsApp group.

"We are amazed at the generosity of our local community. Through technology and a sense of shared responsibility, we have been able to meet the needs of our young people whilst spreading awareness about what YMCA DownsLink Group does for young people across the city. Massive thank you to all those who took the time to donate and to COVID-19 Mutual Aid UK for supporting us.”

Residents and staff have been amazed by the response.

Matt, and Karina, added: “We have been overwhelmed by the kindness and response we have received from our community, helping to provide for our young people at this time of uncertainty. It has been very heart-warming to see the general public coming together in this difficult time and reach out to help our residents and then for us to see their reaction to such a kind-spirited gesture from our local community. Very life-affirming.”

Residents too have been overwhelmed, and said: ‘We can’t believe how much stuff people have given its wicked.' ‘All the food donations have been ace and everyone has been so kind! – many thanks!’ ‘So much food! So many nice people!’ ‘Just brilliant! Thanks to everyone out there’

YMCA DownsLink Group has now set up it’s own fundraising appeal (#Here4U) to ensure it can provide food and essentials to all of the 1,400 residents across Sussex and Surrey. Some of those most at risk, are the young people who have moved on from supported accommodation to ‘transitional’ housing, where they are living alone in small units, as a stepping stone to full independence.

Many of them were working in the gig economy or on zero-hour contracts, so are now struggling with affording the basics and feeling isolated. To combat this, as well as providing essentials, YMCA DownsLink Group also making sure they are being contacted regularly by project workers and have access to technology and the internet (which so many of us take for granted) to ensure they feel connected during this period of isolation.

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