Lack of opportunity does not mean lack of aspiration, and LandAid House will help young people to unlock it.
Everyone deserves a good first start in life. I was lucky enough to have one – a conventional’ path through a good school, two parents who encouraged me in my chosen degree and a solid network of friends and family that ensured I sailed comfortably through the rocky waters of their divorce.
In an increasingly competitive job market for young people, whereby a university degree is often a pre-requisite for employment, we see the benefits that this good first start can bring; the financial means to pursue higher education, high levels of aspiration and the security blanket of a safe and secure home and family.
The property industry is a stand-out example of an industry with a long way to go with regard to socio-economic diversity. Although there are encouraging initiatives to create positive change through apprentice schemes, scholarships and other initiatives, those who enter the surveying profession often come from a number of select universities, which have drawn from a pool of candidates with similar backgrounds.
However, lack of opportunity does not mean lack of aspiration. Last week, I, together with other members of the property industry, visited the future LandAid House, which, when completed in 2019, will become a pioneering scheme providing 146 bedrooms for young people at risk of becoming homeless in London.
As Chris East, Appeal Director for City YMCA London, explained to us, many young people who come to the YMCA for help often come from broken homes with little or no parental support; however, they have not lost their dreams, with aspirations ranging from singers to doctors and businesspeople. What they have missed out on is a safe and well-adjusted environment during childhood in which to gain qualifications, get the right support and understand how to make the transition into adulthood whereby they can carve out a career path and stand on their own feet.
Society is often too quick to demonise rather than empathise when it comes to those sleeping rough. We often attribute their circumstance to their own personal choices, citing drugs, gambling and alcohol abuse as possible reasons for homelessness. However, an unstable upbringing is not a choice; nor is a lack of opportunity, lack of social support, poor mental health, or abuse in childhood. All are factors which can lead to homelessness, and all are factors often outside of an individual’s control.
While many of London’s young vulnerable people may not have had a good first start, LandAid House is one of the many projects out there offering them a second one. It will offer a safe place to live as they prepare to transition to shared accommodation, and provide support and training to help them develop the skills they need to live independently. Dedicated project workers will offer one-to-one advice on designing a realistic plan to unlock aspiration and develop a potential career trajectory.
Supporting society’s most vulnerable requires a shift in mindset; from blaming and negating responsibility to understand our collective role in supporting those who may not have anyone else to turn to. Through LandAid House, the YMCA, LandAid and all its supporters are assuming this mantle, and the continued support of the wider public is vital to securing its future.