In January it was announced that homelessness had been temporarily ended in Watford, going from more than 100 verified rough sleepers this time last year, to zero.
As a further boost to the town, local charity, One YMCA has announced it has secured £2.2 million of investment from the government to reconfigure three floors of its Charter House hostel to create additional homelessness support facilities.
The scheme will generate a further 34 bespoke rooms, plus engagement and activity space so specialist staff can work intensively with residents to help them prepare for independence.
Additionally, One YMCA will also commit £1.8 million of its own funds towards this landmark development to enhance it even further.
The combined £4 million investment into Watford will bring an estimated half a million pounds of social value and savings to the local public purse each year, by reducing the significant costs of homelessness to the town.
The scheme will also create a number of new jobs for local people, as well as providing an opportunity for the residents to learn new skills.
As soon as COVID-19 hit, One YMCA responded by converting some of its existing spaces into intensive support units for rough sleepers, taking 60 people off the streets.
However, this solution was not a permanent fix for the growing problem as Guy Foxell, CEO at One YMCA explains: “We know that there are still many vulnerable people in unsuitable accommodation in Watford, without the crucial support they need to break the cycle of homelessness.
“We therefore want to do even more to equip homeless people with the tools to belong, contribute and thrive within our community.
“The best way to do this is to create more safe places for people to stay and a new programme of long-term support so they can move safely along a “Pathway to Independence” that we, the Council and other partners like New Hope and WCHT are working so hard to establish.”
Construction on the major new development is beginning without delay, and the charity’s goal is to allow people to start moving into COVID-secure Phase 1 from as early as July 2021.
“This is an exciting time as we expand our services and double our housing impact to help alleviate homelessness and provide as much support for as many people as we can.” Mark Turner, Director of Operations at One YMCA
As a result of the critical importance of this new development, One YMCA has made the difficult decision to take over the space currently occupied by its public Community Gym.
This means that the gym will not reopen, but the Senior Leadership Team is actively searching for new premises nearby so that the charity can continue to provide affordable health and wellbeing services for all its gym members in the future.
“We want to find an aspirational space for our new gym concept, a place that will help us inspire and motivate everyone who works out and exercises with us, to be on top of their own game in terms of being fit, well and healthy. The gym has been an integral and much-loved part of the community for so long and we know how much it means to our members.” Simon Foden, Head of Enterprise at One YMCA.