Over the last few months, we at CYP have partnered with London based charity Young Roots, to help some of the young refugees and asylum seekers (aged 11-25), who are being housed in and around the local area of King’s Cross.
Living conditions in the hotels these young people are put in are very poor, and in the hotel our staff visited, the residents were visibly struggling with even the most basic needs. There had been reports that addiction issues and mental health problems were becoming more prevalent due to the restrictive and minimal living situation, with very basic food being provided, over crowded dorms with no privacy and limited options for socialising within the premises.
After our initial outreach session, we made arrangements to open up CYP to the refugees for 2 hours during the day so they could have a break from the negative environment at their hotels. We thought it may take a few weeks to build trusting relationships with them and for them to start attending CYP regularly, but the next week around 7 people came to the youth centre and made use of the space. Over the past 2 months this has continued and there has been a consistent weekly attendance of refugees attending CYP to cook, play pool, play playstaion, watch TV, play music and socialise.
The attendees are all from mixed backgrounds and it has been great to see friendships form among them. There are a group that attend weekly from southern and western Africa that have met through the space at CYP. The first time they met at the centre was the first time either had been able to speak in their mother tongue since they arrived in the UK. Another exciting moment was when a member cooked some food from his home in Botswana that his Mother used to cook him. It was his first time he had cooked it for himself and he was thrilled with the outcome.
The feedback from Young Roots has been extremely positive, and it’s great to hear that the attendees see CYP as a safe haven where they can unwind, in a space that feels more like their own.
Some of the attendees have been through a significant amount of trauma and we will continue to help them with one-to-one theraputic support.
Despite having been through a lot of hardship, it is reassuring to see the attendees taking part in every day activities. Football has the power to bring people together and we now have new recruits to the Tuesday evening football sessions we run at Handyside.
With great collaborative effort from our staff members Ollie and Chelsea and the lovely people at Young Roots, we will continue to provide a safe space – offering group, one-to-one and outreach sessions to those who attend. In doing this we will continue to build positive relationships with members, assist them with their mental health needs and provide stability as they integrate into an unfamiliar and uncertain landscape.