On Friday, I visited the YMCA Open Door project in Wolverhampton. The service offers vulnerable young people safe accommodation with Host Families – individuals, couples and families who live in the Black Country. The idea is to live as part of a family rather than in an institutionalised setting.
Many young people in the Black Country are unable to live at home with their family for a variety of reasons – bereavement, overcrowding, family breakdown or risk of abuse. Young people unable to live at home can be extremely vulnerable. They may appear confident and ‘streetwise’ but the reality can be very different. They become isolated, lonely and lack self-esteem, missing out on educational and social opportunities that others of the same age take for granted. Without a safe home and the guidance of caring, responsible adults many of these young people often become jobless, homeless and with little hope for the future.
I met one young person who has benefited from the YMCA Open Door programme a few days ago. Her story is one which has touched many hearts and shows the real difference that YMCA Open Door is making here in Wolverhampton.
Clotilda was just 16 when she came in contact with YMCA. She had suffered both physical and emotional abuse and was extremely vulnerable at the time. She came on to the project and lived with three host families before being placed with Veronica and Rob, a married couple from Wolverhampton. They saw Clotilda as ‘one of the family’ from the very start of the placement.
She has been with the family for over two years now and despite the challenges that she has faced, with the support of her host family and the YMCA, Clotilda (now 19) will be going to study medicine at university in September. Getting a place to study medicine is a fantastic achievement for her and one she feels she would never have got near had it not been for the help of Rob, Veronica and the YMCA. As well as studying, she is a keen dancer and has also joined a local choir.
As well as providing the safety and emotional support that comes as living as part of a family, the YMCA Open Door project is also much cheaper for the taxpayer than much more expensive traditional care settings. I think this is an inspirational programme and hope it receives the support it deserves from local and national government so that more young people like Clotilda can make the most of their lives.