In April 2022, YMCA East Surrey opened the doors to our newly renovated 12-bedroom shared property in Horley for young homeless people aged 18-30.  

This housing scheme gives us our third move-on property in the local area and provides safe and affordable accommodation suitable for those who have some independent living skills and moderate support needs.  

Ella, 22, moved into her room in the new property this summer, after spending a year living at YMCA Hillbrook House in Redhill. Prior to that, her home was a home-made shed in her boyfriend’s garden. 

“I was a carer for my mum and step-dad but our relationship is a difficult one,” says Ella. “Things came to a head during the pandemic and it is no exaggeration to say that I wouldn’t still be alive if I had had to carry on living at home at that time.” 

“Securing a place at Hillbrook House in May 2021 gave me the opportunity to grow up, learn things I never thought I could learn and to develop my independence.” 

In the past year, with the support of our Housing team, Ella has gone from strength to strength. She became Resident Rep at Hillbrook House, acting as a voice for the residents. In August 2021, she climbed Snowdon with a group of residents and YMCA staff in a fundraising trip aimed at improving mental health, physical health, wellbeing and mind-set. 

“When I came to live at Hillbrook House,” says Ella, “I thought it was just somewhere to sleep, but twelve weeks later I was sitting at the top of the world with new friends, amazing staff and building memories I will never forget. I was blown away.”

Ella took part in our YMCA Sleep Easy event in March and later the same month completed a 15-mile trek along the Viking Coastal Trail in Kent in another memorable trip organised by our Housing team. 

For the past year, she has been offering support to another young person by volunteering as a mentor for our Y’s Girls programme. 

This project is an early mentoring initiative that matches trained volunteer mentors in East Surrey with girls aged 9-14 years old to support them to overcome challenges and achieve their fullest potential in life. 

“As a teenager, I was introverted, struggled to make friends and was bullied at school. When there is no one to talk to, it becomes even more confusing to work out what is going on inside your head,” says Ella. 

“Giving someone else the help that I desperately wanted for myself is helping me to heal my inner child.” 

Ella’s commitment, hard work and empathy has led to her being announced as a finalist in the Young Volunteer of the Year category for the YMCA Youth Matters Awards which will be held later this year. The event celebrates the achievements of young people, staff and volunteers within the wider YMCA community. 

YMCA Housing Support Manager, Nicole Tootill says: 

“Ella is a delight to support. She tackles every obstacle in her life with determination and grace. She’s come so far and continues to be open and honest in her recovery from the trauma she faced as a child.” 

“Progressing to our move-on property has been a huge step. But, alongside Ella’s part-time job as a Support Worker for another local charity, living here has provided her with affordable rent and will allow her to save and budget for life beyond YMCA.” 

Find out more about our Housing Services