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Achievements of Norfolk's young homeless people celebrated

PUBLISHED: 06:30 20 October 2011

Annual YMCA celebration. Photo: Bill Smith

Annual YMCA celebration. Photo: Bill Smith

Archant © 2011

Hundreds of young people find themselves homeless every year and this week, those who have turned their lives around shared their experiences through song, laughter and poetry.

YMCA Norfolk, based in the city, held its annual celebration event on Tuesday night, marking the achievements of young people the charity has helped and raising the organisation’s profile.

The event, held at the Open venue in Bank Plain, saw Norwich youngsters, who had been made homeless, perform on stage and tell their stories.

Nathan Riley, 22, told the 130-strong audience of how the YMCA had helped get him back on his feet after he had spent months as a 16-year-old sleeping out in the woods or on people’s floors. He told the audience how he was so inspired by his mentor Joseph Munns that his ambition is now to become a YMCA support worker himself.

Meanwhile, 17-year-old Jordan Stock’s poem about being homeless and 25-year-old Benny Yarham’s tale of finding himself homeless, and with no-one but the YMCA to turn to after a tour with a rock band finished, highlighted the dedication of staff and volunteers at YMCA Norfolk.

YMCA Norfolk chief executive Tim Sweeting said: “We are focusing this evening on celebrating the young people with whom we have the privilege of working because we believe passionately in the huge potential of every single one, no matter what they’ve been through or had thrown at them. We believe that young people should have the opportunity to reach that potential and be able to tell their own story.”

The event was preceded by the charity’s annual general meeting, conducted by president General Lord Richard Dannatt.

Over the past year, YMCA Norfolk has increased the number of young people it houses every night to 244, trebling the service in Great Yarmouth alone.

Work in the area of supporting parents, health and well-being have all been added to the service at the same time as raising more than £600,000 of the £1m needed to fund the new 40-bed Bethel Street housing scheme in Norwich.

The new development, behind the current St Giles Street building, is due to open in spring next year.

Mr Sweeting added: “You will see new housing schemes in Norwich and Yarmouth and community cafes that are open to the public and run by young people.

“ By putting young people at the heart of all we do, you will see the YMCA grow to be Christian faith in action for many more young people across Norfolk.”

For more information about YMCA Norfolk’s £1m appeal, go to www.ymca-norfolk.org.uk.

Do you know a young person who has turned their life around? Call reporter Kate Scotter on 01603 772326 or email kate.scotter@archant.co.uk.

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