As part of Alex Flower’s work as a Grant Administrator at CDF, he recently visited some community projects in Crewe.
You can read the first instalment of Alex’s reflections on projects he met in this blog post entitled ‘Meeting the groups making a difference’.
In this second half, Alex meets the people behind Crewe’s YMCA who support local homeless people and a project called Christian Concern, a fascinating organisation providing vital services to the community in a number of ways, such as providing low-cost transport alternatives and furniture.
Every year, the YMCA in Crewe provides ‘supported accommodation’ for over 130 single young people with an experience of homelessness. As well as this, they provide accommodation for people sleeping rough, people leaving hospitals to homelessness and emergency accommodation for 16 and 17 year olds in need. I went to meet the team behind all of this great work and find out more about what they do.
Richard Holmes, the Development Manager there gave me a tour of the large, modern facilities and I was really impressed with them and – more importantly – how they’re being used to help combat homelessness in Crewe.
There was even an impromptu bed set up in the gym to provide a bit more space; it seemed to me like no one was turned away. I was able to speak to some of the young people staying at the YMCA and the impression I got was that they felt part of a vibrant community and that they had a support network, which in many cases they had not had before.
After finding out about the great support that the YMCA provides, I then went to visit another group in the area, Christian Concern, a group based in St Paul’s church in Hightown, Crewe. It’s an amazing operation where a disused church has been transformed into a space that is now home to multiple community projects.
The first project I saw was a bicycle repair service, the group had their own workshop inside the church, where they repair bicycles for a low cost, or take in broken bikes and then sell them again for a reasonable price. In a lot of cases, the bikes they sell cost less than the price of a weekly bus pass in the area.
This means they provide the community with a cheap way of getting around, where in some cases people might not be able to afford other forms of transport.
In addition, the bicycle mechanics themselves were people who had a history of substance abuse, homelessness and long-term unemployment. These people have been trained by Christian Concern, giving them access to regular paid work.
I found out that after this experience, participants in the programme have found themselves in a much better position to seek full-time employment.
The next project in the church that I went to see repaired and sold donated sofas and white goods such as fridges and washing machines. This worked in a similar way to the bike project, helping disadvantaged people learn new skills and helping out local people and families to purchase good quality furniture for a relatively low cost at their sale every Friday. As well as selling these goods, they also donate these items free of charge, for people who are in financial need.
Rob Wykes, Christian Concern’s Director said “If we sell two sofas in the Friday Sale, this enables us to give one away to someone who needs one.”
Since the project began 25 years ago, the project has helped 15,000 people, equating to £1.5m of donated furniture.
It was really inspiring to see all of the different ways Christian Concern support the community. I was also shown around Christian Concern’s foodbank. The foodbank works with 27 churches in the area to donate food to those who need it, and is open five days a week.
You can find out more about the Crewe YMCA and their homelessness projects on their website. And for more information about Christian Concern, their bicycle workshop, furniture sales, foodbank and many other projects, visit their website here.
Are there community projects in your area who are doing great work? Email Communications@cdf.org.uk if you want to write a guest blog for Just Act.Inspirational community projects in Crewe,