Duncan Forbes is chief executive of Bron Afon Community Housing, a social enterprise and registered social landlord in Torfaen, South Wales. Here, he talks about an innovative project to develop co-operatively managed accommodation for young people who would otherwise be at risk of homelessness.
When Dr Peter Mackie, from Cardiff University, told our youth forum that by 2020 there would be a housing crisis for young people, it spurred them into action.
They took the lead with a new initiative, which saw our derelict community centre in Pontypool refurbished to create Ty Cyfle, a block of eight starter homes, with support, for 16-24 year-olds who are, or aspire to be, in education, employment, training or volunteering.
The building also has two community rooms where local people can access services like computer training and job hunting. We will also run our various work programmes under the ‘That Works’ banner, which has already helped many people into training and work.
As well as providing homes and facilities, the project gave young people the chance to put their innovative and creative ideas into action. The ideas and research from the youth forum meant we found a new use for the building, which we had been looking to demolish.
They took the lead with Ty Cyfle – the first project completed by Bron Afon’s Own 2 Feet Living service which provides innovative accommodation for young people – providing each other with mutual support, helped by our skilled youth team and volunteers.
Working in this way, the group has dramatically changed the lives and life chances of many of its members for the better, including young people who have previously fallen down the gaps between other support and care services.
This service is unique because it is led by young people who know how the combination of accommodation and tailored support will help their peers succeed.
Our team helps the tenants to stand on their own two feet and move on into their next tenancy within two years. During that time they get help with budgeting, cooking cheap meals and being a good neighbour. The Own 2 Feet support package has been running for several years and not a single tenant has failed in their tenancy.
Afon Youth has set up a management committee for Ty Cyfle with the tenants. It has set some simple ‘house rules’ and self-manages any low-level issues.
Ty Cyfle is a fantastic example of how co-operative working leads to outcomes that you can never imagine, by avoiding a traditional ‘we know best’ or ‘this is how we’ve always done it’ approach.
Suzy Sorby has been a member of Afon Youth since the start and now works for Bron Afon. “We are passionate about the problems that young people face when getting housing and this includes the perceptions of homeless young people,” she said. Over the course of three years we filled up two large folders with our research.
“We all knew that what we were doing was something unique, something that no one else was doing – and we, the young people, were given the opportunities to do it for ourselves. This was young people helping young people.
“Afon Youth is made up of a diverse group of young people, including some who had experience of being homeless. It was identified that there was a big gap – going from living in 24 hour support to floating support once a young person was successful in managing their own home and finances.
“It was highlighted by the young people who had gone through Own 2 Feet that there was something extra needed for young people to be ready for independent living. This is how we got our idea for Ty Cyfle.”
- You can contact Bron Afon Community Housing on 01633 620111 and follow Duncan Forbes on Twitter @forbes_duncan
- This article was originally published by the Wales Co-operative Centre.