St Mary le Bow Young Homeless Charity began work with young homeless people in 1990, helped by the Council.
The young people are aged from 19 to about 25, and they can take any except those with severe Class A drug, alcohol or mental problems – because they have limited staff, and cannot give the intense support they need.
The charity began with some 14 young people, and now have up to six at a time in flats near Elephant and Castle, rented cheaply from The Peabody Trust. The young people learn to live in flats with each other – something they’ve never done before. This prepares them for independent living in the most practical way. When they are ready, the charity help them to their own flats. If they fail, they may return.
The charity also work with some 30 young ex-prisoners each year, to prevent them from going back to gaol – the rate of recidivism is 75% with young people. One of the few ways of preventing this is a job – a more enjoyable or less risky alternative to crime. It takes time for them to repair the damage of early years – lack of discipline, great anger and frustration, which often means that at the beginning, they can’t cope with regular hours and work.
The most successful work is done with Pret à Manger and its Foundation. Pret gives three-month apprenticeships and if the young people behave, they get permanent jobs. This scheme has been working for three years and because they are a small charity, Pret introduced others to increase the numbers of young homeless people and young ex-prisoners working with them. Now there are seventy.