A dedicated scheme aimed at helping young adults get a better start in life has been officially opened.
The Single Key Foyer scheme, which provides supported accommodation for up to 10 young people, has been hailed by Middlesbrough Mayor Ray Mallon.
The £900,000 three storey property has been built by Home Group and contractor Cameron Builders to provide high quality individual accommodation to homeless people aged between 16 – 25.
The Foyer houses 10 individual flats or high quality bedsits which allow youngsters to live independent lives while being able to call on help and advice from one of eight support workers who remain at the property 24/7.
The Foyer is run on a day to day basis by Stonham – the care and support division of North East based Home Group.
Single Key Foyer Service Manager, Steve Warren said: “The service we provide here allows young people to gain the skills they need to live independently.
“Many young people who may come from chaotic backgrounds would struggle if they were just put in a flat by themselves without any support services.
“What we do here is to encourage and help them to take responsibility for themselves with tasks such as budgeting for rent and electricity along with life skills including cooking healthy meals for themselves and keeping their flats clean and tidy.”
The new Foyer has been built on the site of a former children’s home in Gribdale Road, Berwick Hills, Middlesbrough. The former building provided accommodation for only seven adults who had to share bathroom facilities.
The new Foyer has communal seating and cooking areas and each flat or bedsit also has individual bathrooms, kitchens and living rooms.
Mayor Mallon, who officially cut the ribbon to open the facility, said: “I’m very impressed by what I have seen here. The quality of the accommodation is fantastic and is something that I would be happy to live in.
“Home Group, Stonham and Camerons have built a very high quality building here which will help serve some of the vulnerable young people in the area for years to come.
“I have always said we need to make young people feel valued in life and members of their communities and I think the work which goes on here is a prime example of that.”
Steve added: “Although the accommodation here is great our goal for each young person is to get them into a property of their own. We hope people will move on in an average of six months once they are comfortable in living on their own.
“We offer training on site and we are also working closely with Middlesbrough College to offer other training opportunities which will improve people’s chances in the jobs market.
“Even when people do move out we continue to offer support in their new homes to help them manage the adjustment to fully independent living.”
The £900,000 rebuild was funded through an HCA grant, and Middlesbrough Council funds the delivery of the services.
Middlesbrough's Youth Homelessness Strategy highlights the need for an increase in appropriate supported housing for young people aged 16 to 25.
Melissa Hudson is one of the residents living at the Single Key Foyer.
The 19-year-old found herself living in Middlesbrough hundreds of miles away from family and friends after leaving the RAF.
She said: “I grew up in Lincolnshire and when I left school ended up joining the RAF aged only 16. I decided to leave after nine months of service as I found it difficult to settle.
“Going back to my parents wasn’t an option. They are very focused on work and were disappointed that I had left the RAF.
“The RAF found me a place to live in Middlesbrough which was a hostel for other homeless people.
“I started to drink quite heavily because I wasn’t very happy and also wanted to fit in with the people I was living with.
“After a while I realised my drinking had got out of hand but I lost my hostel place. I spent a few months sofa surfing and I also spent a few nights sleeping rough in January.
“It was bitterly cold and one of the worst times of year to find yourself on the street.”
Melissa was put into contact with support workers from Stonham at the Single Key Foyer and hasn’t looked back since.
She said: “I no longer have a drink problem. I can enjoy a drink on a Friday night without getting drunk or waking up the next day hungover.
“The support I’ve received here has been brilliant. I have my own place but there’s always someone to call on for advice.
“It’s the first time I’ve had somewhere to call my own and I take pride in keeping everything tidy and looking after myself.
“The staff at Stonham have helped me with applying for jobs and just the other day I had an interview to be a retail assistant. I’m hopeful that I’ll get the job and then I’ll be employed and have my own flat, something which only seemed a dream a few months ago.”
Single Key is a £900,000 scheme built by Homes in partnership with contractor Cameron Builders.
The young people’s support services will be operated by Stonham, Care and Support Division of Home Group.
Middlesbrough College staff and students were at the launch to talk to the youngsters about how it can help them with education and employment opportunities