Empowering young voices: YMCA Youth Council explores rent, equality and representation - YMCA DownsLink Group

Empowering young voices: YMCA Youth Council explores rent, equality and representation

Youth Council during their meeting sat around a table

We recently held our fifth Youth Council meeting since starting the group in April last year. Residents travelled from Guildford, Brighton and Worthing to continue discussing how to improve their experiences across our supported housing projects.


We’re really pleased to have created a solid, committed core group of young people in the Youth Council who are bonding with one another and growing in confidence to speak out each session and represent their fellow residents.

The session began with the Youth Council Reps sharing a short video of each of their houses that they had created themselves and then narrated. They shared the videos so they could see what each project looked like, understand each other’s experiences better and spark conversations about what works well and what could be improved in each home.

YMCA Youth Council watching the presentation on the rents policy

One of the Reps asked the Guildford residents if their project “felt like home”. They immediately answered yes, sharing that they love living there, it is very homely and everyone feels like family. This answer seemed to inspire some of the group who later discussed how they could make their houses feel more ‘home-like’, such as improving their common spaces and organising more group activities for residents to do together.

The overall focus of the session was on our new rent policy. This was an area of interest for the Youth Council and had been brought up during resident meetings across the projects. We were pleased to be joined by members of our finance team who presented a breakdown of the new rent policy and addressed questions pre-planned from the Reps. The young people really engaged with the presentation, taking notes and asking questions as they went. One young person was so intrigued by the approval process that they asked if it was possible to join the Board or become more involved with the trustees.

The group also watched a short film made by Adi, an ex-resident, made for refugee children and their families (read Adi’s story here). Jessica, our Guildford Inspire Coach, shared the video with the group and will invite Adi to the next Youth Council meeting to speak as an inspiring guest.

The Reps said that they’d like to have more speakers come in to the meetings, such as Trustees or ex-residents who can talk about their experiences at YMCA. They also came up with a plan to help recruit more Youth Council members so that all of the projects are represented.

At the end of the session, the Reps were asked to summarise the meeting in a few words. Everyone said they’d learnt a lot and were looking forward to going back to their houses and relaying all the latest information. A few examples of their feedback are:

“It’s been wonderful to meet everyone.”

“I’m definitely going to follow up on the things we’ve talked about.”

“I’m really excited to be here today.”

The Youth Council have been invited to join part of the next YMCA DownsLink Board meeting at their away day in March. We’re looking forward to seeing what this opportunity brings for these young people.


YMCA enables people to develop their full potential in mind, body and spirit. Inspired by and faithful to our Christian values, we create supportive, inclusive and energising communities, where young people can truly belong, contribute and thrive.

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