Ella’s story

Ella, 22, moved into her own room in new the YMCA semi-independent living property this summer. Prior to this, her home was a home-made shed in her boyfriend’s garden, due to family difficulties. 

Date published



Lauren Doy, Communications & Engagement Manager

LandAid supports young people like Ella, in charities like YMCA East Surrey, all across the country.

In April 2022, YMCA East Surrey opened their doors to their newly renovated 12-bedroom shared property in Horley for young homeless people aged 18-30.  

This housing scheme provides safe and affordable accommodation suitable for those who have some independent living skills and moderate support needs.  

Ella, 22, moved into her room in the new property this summer, after spending a year living at YMCA Hillbrook House in Redhill. Prior to that, her home was a home-made shed in her boyfriend’s garden. 

I was a carer for my mum and step-dad but our relationship is a difficult one. Things came to a head during the pandemic and it is no exaggeration to say that I wouldn’t still be alive if I had had to carry on living at home at that time. Securing a place at Hillbrook House in May 2021 gave me the opportunity to grow up, learn things I never thought I could learn and to develop my independence.

In the past year, with the support of the Hillbrook House team, Ella has gone from strength to strength. She became Resident Rep, acting as a voice for the residents. In August 2021, she climbed Snowdon with a group of residents and YMCA staff in a fundraising trip aimed at improving mental health, physical health, wellbeing and mind-set. 

“When I came to live at Hillbrook House,” says Ella, “I thought it was just somewhere to sleep, but twelve weeks later I was sitting at the top of the world with new friends, amazing staff and building memories I will never forget. I was blown away.” 

For the past year, she has been offering support to another young person by volunteering as a mentor for the Y’s Girls programme. 

This project is an early mentoring initiative that matches trained volunteer mentors in East Surrey with girls aged 9-14 years old to support them to overcome challenges and achieve their fullest potential in life. 

“As a teenager, I was introverted, struggled to make friends and was bullied at school. When there is no one to talk to, it becomes even more confusing to work out what is going on inside your head,” says Ella. 

Giving someone else the help that I desperately wanted for myself is helping me to heal my inner child.

Ella’s commitment, hard work and empathy has led to her being announced as a finalist in the Young Volunteer of the Year category for the YMCA Youth Matters Awards. The event celebrates the achievements of young people, staff and volunteers within the wider YMCA community. 


Ella is a delight to support. She tackles every obstacle in her life with determination and grace. She’s come so far and continues to be open and honest in her recovery from the trauma she faced as a child. Progressing to our move-on property has been a huge step. But, alongside Ella’s part-time job as a Support Worker for another local charity, living here has provided her with affordable rent and will allow her to save and budget for life beyond YMCA.
YMCA Housing Support Manager, Nicole Tootill