Stylish social enterprise

Pictured: CEO Paul and Marketing & Fundraising Officer “PK” Paul Kellett at the welcome desk of the Luton YMCA.

A social enterprise displaying the talents of arts and crafts individuals within the prestigious Edwardian Arcade in Bedford is underway. 4mation is the brand name of this organisation which directly supports the work of the Bedfordshire YMCA which helps the homeless of all ages.

The shop displays some items which have been recycled and repurposed and renewed into stylish items which would grace any home.
4mation has in fact three town centre outlets within the Bedford BID zone. The Re-Use Centre in Gadsby Street (formerly called Furniture Link) to which people donate unwanted furniture and other items merged with YMCA Bedfordshire in June 2019. 
Some of these are then restored and revived by talented volunteers and put on sale in the Edwardian Arcade.

In the nearby Church Arcade (closer to the bus station) there is also the YMCA/4mation more traditional charity shop selling items which need no restoration.YMCA Beds CEO Paul Hunt said: “This is an innovation approach to supporting the work of the YMCA and in the process enables people to see something beautiful being made from their hardware donations.”

Background on the YMCA in Bedfordshire

Homelessless is constantly in the news these days but few solutions are spotlighted. However, one organisation is offering more than 220 ‘beds in Beds’ to those aged 16-64: and that is YMCA Bedfordshire. Readers may associate the name with youth hostelling and the famous 1970s song by the Village People. The reality is a YMCA Beds accommodation project is not a one night stop-over but a home for up to two years, with advice, assistance and a listening ear.
“We provide 36% of all accommodation to the homeless across the county and more than this, we offer guidance and courses to encourage people to go on to lead independent lives,” said YMCA Beds CEO Paul Hunt.
The original YMCA Bedfordshire accommodation project, Weaver House, is still in Gibbons Road, Bedford, while the latest and newest, Midland House, is on King Street, Luton. Plus there is: The Foyer in Conduit Road, Bedford Cornerstone on Tavistock Street, Bedford, Linden House, a Victorian conversion in Linden Road, Bedford.
Also an Edwardian semi-detached house in St. George’s Road, Bedford.
In addition there are supported lodgings across Beds and Luton to allow those aged 16-21 to move on from care into a “family” environment. There are also two Women’s Refuges in “central Bedfordshire” along with a Domestic Abuse Outreach service supporting men and women living in temporary accommodation throughout Bedfordshire.
YMCA Bedfordshire is a Housing Association, a Company Limited by Guarantee and a charity. YMCA Bedfordshire is part of a federation of 93 UK-wide. In Bedfordshire, the YMCA focusses on the practical help of secure accommodation.

Luton lives made better 

Midland House, a former bank, has been decorated in a trendy urban style to make it feel like home not an institution, to 78 residents who start with en-suite rooms with a shared kitchenette, and they can progress on to self-contained one-bedroom flats.
“When we opened this we took in many people from council emergency Bed & Breakfast and we calculated it saved the council tens of thousands of pounds,” added Paul, “People’s rent is paid by Housing Benefit and they pay £10 a week toward utilities and other bills.
“But more than that the residents feel they have a home, they have access to shared community facilities, our Skills4 courses and guidance on how to move on into a tenancy where they will have to manage their own lives.

“This extra support helps fill up those gaping holes left when people come from chaotic backgrounds, who have not had the benefit of parents giving them advice and setting a good example, or have never had to take responsibility for running their own lives.”YMCA Bedfordshire is currently refurbishing older accommodation. At the Victorian Linden House, the property is being refurbished and will provide an additional four rooms for those aged 30+ who are homeless and are perhaps leaving hospital and cannot go back to street living. At Weaver House, the original project, is being upgraded room by room.

How you can help

People or companies wanting to encourage those who are homeless, who need a roof over their head and a stable setting to help them move on, should look at our website.
Every £1 you give to our organisation is put towards keeping our accommodation available all year round and guiding people into work or an independent lifestyle. If you really want to help a homeless person, give to an organisation like ours which has professionals and volunteers keeping people off the streets,” says Paul Kellett, Fundraising and Marketing Manager, “We are a Bedfordshire organisation helping people right on your doorstep, you can see what we do to provide accommodation, temporary and longer-term to those young and old who have fallen through the cracks on our website which includes some fantastic videos based on true life stories of local people.
In addition Gadsby Street will take donations of non-perishable foods from the public (supermarkets donate fruit and vegetables direct to the unit).