VOLUNTEERS have begun transforming former offices into a new home for vulnerable young people.
A team of young people from Southend YMCA have started converting old offices in Hamlet Court Road, Westcliff, into flats for people of a similar age who are at risk of homelessness.
The charity is using £10,000 from a sponsored sleep out – known as the Sleep Easy – at the charity’s Southchurch offices last March, and cash from Government and other charities.
Volunteer Mark Bromfield, 54, who has taken part in the fundraiser for the past two years, said: “I thought it was fantastic to assist such a great organisation in this new housing development.
“Having been involved with two Sleep Easy fundraising events and now witnessing the process of the organisation purchasing the new property, it is great to see this much-needed service within Southend becoming available.”
The volunteers began stripping the wallpaper in preparation for a complete revamping of the former offices, above the Samaritans charity shop.
Walls will be knocked through, new toilets installed and a kitchen moved.
Young people from Essex Probation will also help with the revamp.
Sleep Easy organiser Tom Moulton said: “The volunteers were participants from the sleep out events we have done in the past two years.
“This gave them the opportunity to see the fruits of their labours – the bricks and mortar that would not have been possible without them.”
The new flat will be shared by four young people struggling to find accommodation.
A mews behind the property could be turned into another bedsit.
The YMCA, which already has 30 sheltered flats in Ambleside Drive, opted for empty offices in a bid to increase the amount of housing available.
Leigh charity Serving the Homeless and the Rosca Trust – which supports charities from Southend, Castle Point and Rochford helping the young, elderly and disabled – donated £6,000 and £5,000 respectively.
It came after 65 people, including two Echo reporters, spent the night in the YMCA car park, in Ambleside Drive, with only sleeping bags and cardboard boxes as bedding.
The Government contributed £300,000. The charity is using half the money on the flats.
The remaining cash, and almost £15,000 raised by 100 people who took part in the second Sleep Easy in March, will potentially be used to purchase more properties to develop in this way.