On 17th March 2015 Sandwell and Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust organised an open day for the ‘Live and Work’ scheme as Keepmoat Regeneration prepared to hand over the keys for refurbished ex-nurses accommodation to St Basils, the Midlands largest youth homelessness charity.
The Live and Work scheme positioned on the edge of Sandwell Hospital’s site is much more than just a building though, it is a truly innovative scheme giving 27 homeless young people aged 16-25 from both Sandwell and Birmingham somewhere safe and affordable to live as well as employment onsite, meaning they can live independently without recourse to benefits whilst making much better use of former medical staff accommodation which has remained unused for a number of years.
It was a vision that has been two years in the making only realised thanks to funding from the Empty Homes Agency and several different local partners including Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust who approached St Basils with the idea, Keepmoat Regeneration who refurbished the accommodation at cost and their supply chain who delivered materials at a discount, both Sandwell and Birmingham local councils and Health Education West Midlands who donated the funding needed to provide the RISE programme, a 5 week pre-apprenticeship course delivered by University Hospitals Birmingham to help young people interested in applying for the Apprenticeships to build the confidence, self-belief and skills needed for them to have the best chance of success.
Speaking at the open day event, Chief Executive of St Basils Jean Templeton said:
“Our young people tell us that what’s most important to help them break the cycle of homelessness is about having somewhere safe to live, somewhere that’s affordable and somewhere that you can actually engage in education and training and move into work.”
“That’s the reason this scheme is so precious to us, because it breaks the mould of the traditional ways of achieving accommodation and access to employment for young people, ensuring they can move on successfully and be truly independent without recourse to benefits.”
“It takes a whole community to bring up a young person and this project is the perfect example of that and of localism in action as it was only achieved thanks to the commitment and contributions of many different local partners. It just shows that if we all put in a little bit, we can make something really special”.
Following the presentations, partners and young people who have already taken up the Apprenticeships or are planning to, were invited to look around the finished project.
One young man aged 21 who came to St Basils after losing his Mum and is currently on an Administration Apprenticeship said: “Before this I was just doing shift work at factories, sometimes working nights, it wasn’t great. It didn’t feel like much of a future. Where I am now is a lot better. On the Apprenticeship I’m using computers, it’s all useful. The building’s nice and they’ll be no commute time here. I’d definitely recommend this scheme to other young people.”
One young woman, an ex-care leaver aged 20 and one of the first to take up an Apprenticeship said: “It’s been a good year, I’ve just enjoyed the freedom earning your own money brings and always being busy and learning. I think the project looks really nice now, I’d love to have one of those rooms”.
Young people are now preparing to move into the finished refurbished accommodation to start or continue their Apprenticeships.