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New Errol Street YMCA hostel ‘will be so much better’ for Islington’s homeless

PUBLISHED: 14:34 20 July 2017 | UPDATED: 17:43 20 July 2017

YMCA Errol Street hostel groundbreaking ceremony. Picture: Polly Hancock

YMCA Errol Street hostel groundbreaking ceremony. Picture: Polly Hancock

Archant

After 32 years and 5,000 tenants, the old YMCA hostel in Errol Street has been demolished. Not many at the charity will miss it.

YMCA Errol Street hostel groundbreaking ceremony: demolition of the old hostel. Picture: Polly HancockYMCA Errol Street hostel groundbreaking ceremony: demolition of the old hostel. Picture: Polly Hancock

The hostel, near the City border in the south of Islington, has made a vital contribution to addressing homelessness in Islington and London since the Queen Mother opened it in 1985.

But with small bedrooms, long corridors, failing boilers, constant leaks and shared bathrooms with no one taking responsibility for cleaning, it was no longer fit for purpose.

The hostel shut last summer, with clients re-housed in the YMCA’s Hackney facility. Construction of a new £19million building, paid for by grants and fundraising appeals, started on the same site yesterday. Expected to open in early 2019, it will house 146 vulnerable people between 16 and 25.

After the groundbreaking ceremony, appeal director Chris East told the Gazette: “There were many problems with the old building. It was built in the 1980s – not a good period for architecture. It wasn’t durable and had all the wear and tear you would expect from housing young people over three decades.

“It had an institutionalised feel, meaning it wasn’t a place to teach people how to be responsible young adults. It was an old-fashioned spoon-fed approach. We needed to look at our options.”

The new building, Chris explained, will be far better equipped to fulfil people’s individual needs.

“It will be largely made up of five-bedroom flats. It will be akin to university accommodation. The key thing is, it will allow us to group people more effectively. The open plan of the old hostel made that difficult. So we won’t be putting 16-year-olds with 22-year-olds who are at such different stages of development.

“It will allow us to tailor our services, but in these flats the clients will be able to look after themselves better. We are creating a new model on how people should come through a hostel.”

YMCA Errol Street hostel groundbreaking ceremony: former resident Tieah Morrison speaks about her memories of the old building and hopes for the new one. Picture: Polly HancockYMCA Errol Street hostel groundbreaking ceremony: former resident Tieah Morrison speaks about her memories of the old building and hopes for the new one. Picture: Polly Hancock

But Chris also warned: “It’s more difficult than ever before. We have some people as young as 16, often with tragic stories and nowhere else to go. We even get university students because they just can’t get a place in London. And the number of homeless people has doubled [in the past eight years]. It’s such an acute issue.”


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