7 September 2015

Living in the Y:Cube will change my life completely,” says Wendy, one of the first of the 36 tenants to move in to the Y:Cube development on George Williams Court in Mitcham this autumn.

By having my own space with my own front door I will get my independence back. But it’s not just that.  As the rent is affordable and I can stay for up to five years, I’ll also be able to save money for a deposit. Basically, when the time comes to move on from Y:Cube, I will be in a completely different situation to today ”.

The idea that you can live in London and save up money for a deposit without having to rely on parent’s financial support, or live in shared accommodation of often poor quality, is becoming more and more unrealistic in a city where demand massively outgrows supply and prices are booming.

The new Y:Cube scheme in Mitcham, however, promises just that: With rent set at an affordable £148 a week, only 65% of the current market rent in the area, young people like Wendy can live comfortably in self-contained, high quality flats, whilst working or studying and getting their careers started.

Most importantly, Y:Cube can help the group of people who are hit the hardest by the housing crisis in London; namely the people who don’t have a place to call home at all.

Half of the 36 tenants moving in to Y:Cube Mitcham, will previously have been homeless. 24 year old Wendy is one of them.

Kicked out of her flat

Wendy was made homeless last January after the photography studio she worked in found that they couldn’t afford to keep her on. Suddenly, she was unable to pay rent and without much notice, her room-mate kicked her out.

With family abroad and friends in small flats, she had no other option than to spend the cold and dark winter nights on the streets of Kingston upon Thames, one of the wealthiest boroughs in London.

By then, she’d been to the council. She’d applied for housing benefits, but with everything happening so quickly, it would take a while before the money would come through.

Wendy had also been to Kingston Churches Action on Homelessness (KCAH), who called around to local night shelters to see if there was a bed for her somewhere. But with endless waiting lists, all they could do was provide her with a sleeping bag.

In the midst of the darkest and coldest winter month, for three freezing nights Wendy slept rough on the streets.

Daytime was spent at the job centre, where she hid her belongings and sleeping bag out of sight whilst looking for work.

No second night out

On her third day of sleeping rough, KCAH helped Wendy contact Street Link, who came and picked her up that night and took her to a shelter.

Problem was, the street they came to is a really long street. So I walked up and down all night, hoping they’d see me. Finally, I got so tired I just needed to lie down. I left my feet out of the sleeping bag with my colourful shoes on, hoping they would make it easier to spot me,” Wendy explains.

Luckily, Street Link did spot Wendy that night, and brought her to a shelter run by No Second Night Out.  Once she was set up on Housing Benefits, she was then offered a more permanent place in the hostel run by YMCA St Paul’s Group in Surbiton.

Volunteering and training to become a manager

Once settled in at the YMCA, Wendy met the YMCA Chaplain, Jackie Bone, who asked if she’d be interested in doing some volunteer work for the charity.

I was just happy to have a roof over my head again and at first, all I wanted to focus on was getting back on my feet,” Wendy says.

But I started volunteering, first for Jacky and the Chaplaincy Team and later at the YMCA John Innes Youth Centre in Wimbledon, where I did photography sessions with the young people”.

Volunteering can be a great way for the residents who live in YMCA’s supported accommodation to get their confidence and self-esteem back after experiencing being homeless, and for many, it’s a great way of keeping busy and developing their skills whilst applying for jobs.

For Wendy, everything sorted itself out when she was offered a job at a local pub in Surbiton.

Now, they are even training me to become a manager,” she says.

Regaining independence

Moving into Y:Cube is the natural next step for Wendy, who – for a couple of months – has been living in one of YMCA LSW’s ‘Move-On’ houses in Surbiton; two shared houses aimed at young people who are studying or in employment .

“The YMCA’s move-on houses are fine, but the Y:Cube has so much more to offer: My own front door and my own bathroom, living room and kitchen space where I can cook when I want and what I want.

Living independently in the Y:Cube will change my life completely, “Wendy says.

I will get my independence back”.

7 September 2015