Martin Francis, 36, is the Maintenance Worker at YMCA Wimbledon and has been a resident in the hostel three times. He first came to the hostel in 2005 and stayed a couple of months, then returned in 2013. This was a difficult period for Martin as he was trying to gain custody for his son and battling his own personal issues. “I wasn’t able to care for my son at the time. I lost my flat so I moved in here.”
In 2015, things got worse for Martin and he decided to go rehab for six months in Portsmouth. “I did see the rehab through to the end, and was hoping to relocate in the area but ended up coming back to London. I was back at my Mum’s and sleeping on her sofa, but my parents were divorcing, so things were difficult. I contacted the YMCA, paid the rent I owed and moved back in.
“Coming back to YMCA for the third time in 2016, it was a bit easier for me. I knew what was expected of me and how to get involved. I went to all of the groups and activities and volunteered with the Community Activities Team. I understood that by helping others you help yourself. Going through rehab and counselling, you learn a lot about this kind of stuff.
“I used to sit in my room at night and worry about what was going to happen to me; what was going to happen in the future. You have a lot of time on your hands and there’s a lot of different people here – you can get lost. You are lonely and deep in your thoughts. I wanted to keep busy, keep my mind occupied.”
Martin left YMCA Wimbledon in March this year to move into a housing association flat in Colliers Wood and took up his new role working at the hostel in April. “My relationship with my family is a lot better than it was five years ago. I asked my dad for help to get some clothes for work and he stepped in, I phone my mum regularly and they are in a better place because they are not worrying about me.”
And what are Martin’s thoughts on YMCA? “Looking at YMCA, the rooms and the people here it doesn’t often look good. But if you look at the YMCA as an organisation, this is a place to recuperate, rebuild yourself and move on. This is just a stop gap. It’s what you make of it. People have got to realise that they have a really good opportunity here.”