Homeless charity aims to smash stereotypes with open day event

Open Day at YMCA in Westgate Street Bury St Edmunds'Jack Giddings and Jack Walsh with Kerry Whitting'Picture Mark Westley ANL-150818-182106009
Open Day at YMCA in Westgate Street Bury St Edmunds'Jack Giddings and Jack Walsh with Kerry Whitting'Picture Mark Westley ANL-150818-182106009
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A charity which helps homeless young people get back on their feet opened its doors to the public this week to showcase its services and smash a few stereotypes.

Bury St Edmunds YMCA, which homes 25 young people at its centre on Westgate Street, held an open day on Tuesday where visitors could meet residents and staff, have a look around the facilities as well as grab a cup of tea, a piece of cake or a hot dog from the barbecue.

Open Day at YMCA in Westgate Street Bury St Edmunds'Jack Giddings and Jack Walsh with Kerry Whitting'Picture Mark Westley ANL-150818-182055009

Open Day at YMCA in Westgate Street Bury St Edmunds'Jack Giddings and Jack Walsh with Kerry Whitting'Picture Mark Westley ANL-150818-182055009

The centre also set up a special ‘stereotypes room’ where a video created by the tenants was shown.

The video featured young people who live in YMCA Suffolk accommodation holding up pieces of paper with facts about themselves aiming to break down the negative perceptions people may have of them.

Some showed they had been to college, had gained qualifications and diplomas, had never taken drugs, had climbed mountains and volcanos, were interested in the economy and stock market and had played music live on the radio.

All residents at the YMCA pay weekly rent and must attend regular meetings with a key worker to create a ‘Passport to Independence’. The scheme helps young people improve their mental health, learn to deal with money and develop other skills they will need when they leave.

Ryan Payne, 20, who has been at the YMCA for two years, said : “It gives us the support and the help we need to prepare ourselves for the outside world. They are always there to support you.”

Volunteer Kerry is shortlisted for Youth Matters Award

With the help of the YMCA, 20-year-old Kerry Whiting has turned her life around and has been nominated for a national Youth Volunteer of the Year Award.

Kerry moved into the YMCA on Westgate Street in Bury just before Christmas in 2012, aged just 16.

“I was a very different person back then”, she said.

“I felt isolated and had a lots of problems.

“I didn’t like speaking to people, had problems with drugs and my mental health was not good.

“Without the YMCA I don’t know what I would have done – I don’t think I would be here now.”

After two spells at the YMCA, Kerry now has her own flat, but volunteers regulaly at the centre.

On October 22, Kerry heads down to London having made the final three for Young Volunteer of the Year at the YMCA Youth Matters Awards.

She said: “The YMCA is a listening ear.

“It is about having people believe in you when you don’t believe in yourself.

“It is just having that safety of knowing you are secure and have help growing as a person.

“This place is absolutely incredible, it really is.

“Everyone needs someone and the YMCA can offer that.”

For more information on YMCA Suffolk please visit {http://www.ymcasuffolk.org.uk\www.ymcasuffolk.org.uk|Click here}