Gerry’s story

Gerry was the first young person to move into YMCA DLG’s newly refurbished Foyer. He says, “I walked around with a big smile on my face.  I felt more free, I like the quieter atmosphere and I love having my own place.”

Before moving into a YMCA hostel in the summer of 2017 life had been pretty chaotic for Gerry.  He left school at 16, and had a succession of casual jobs that didn’t lead on to anything better.  At 17 he didn’t feel comfortable staying with his mum when her new partner moved in, so he began a period of sofa surfing with occasional stays at home.  Eventually he was referred to a YMCA hostel, which gave him a stable base at last.  He was glad of the opportunity to start building towards a future.

“I didn’t know how to apply for benefits or handle finances,” he says, “The YMCA has really helped me to get sorted out.”  However, over time he had turned to alcohol as a coping mechanism.  He continued to drink heavily.  This led to him getting involved in a couple of fights and with the police.  His YMCA keyworker encouraged him to reduce his drinking but the message didn’t get through until eventually his girlfriend issued an ultimatum, that they were over if he continued to drink.  “Things fell into place in my head.” says Gerry, “They were both saying the same thing and I saw it made sense.  I decided I needed to make changes, so I did.”

Since then Gerry has proved that he is ready to move on to live more independently, and the opening of the Foyer came at the perfect time for him. Paul Napthine, Head of Guildford Operations, has seen the change in Gerry.  He commented, “Gerry has a good attitude and he wants to work.  We could see he really wants to make something of his life.  We want to encourage him in that, so he was a perfect candidate for moving from our supported accommodation hostel to the greater independence of the Foyer.”

Foyer residents have to fulfil certain criteria such as being in education, training or work for a minimum of 16 hours a week. They have to manage their own finances, cook and clean for themselves and generally live more independently while still within a very safe environment.  This is with the aim to moving on into their own private rented accommodation in a couple of years.

Gerry also came across an opportunity to qualify for a fork lift truck driving licence but the cost of £395 made it seem out of reach. However, he was able to apply successfully to the YMCA’s Life Change Fund.  This fund is available to young people who need financial support to achieve something of significant benefit to them.

Now 19 and looking ahead to the future Gerry says, “I’ve got a better understanding of what I want to do and where I want to go. I want to qualify as a fork lift truck driver and get a CSCS card for the construction industry.  I’ve had short term jobs in construction but the fork lift truck training will benefit me for the long term, I’ll be able to find better paid work.  Moving into the YMCA has opened up opportunities to me.  Without it I think I’d be living in a caravan somewhere, still picking up casual jobs.  I’d be drinking too much, with no plans for the future.  Instead I can see a way forward and I’m making progress.  Moving in to the Foyer has been brilliant, it’s great having my own space and things are looking really positive.”

We wish Gerry every success in the future.