Winchester House YMCA Feasibility Study - Lisa Cumming

WilkinsonEyre became a foundation partner of LandAid following a review of charitable giving in 2016. We wanted to work with a charity that we could really engage with, not just financially but personally. LandAid is the property industry charity working to end youth homelessness in the UK. It tackles the root causes of youth homelessness, protects young people on the streets, provides accommodation and support for those who have been homeless and gives a platform to young people to have their voices heard.

I raised my hand to be a volunteer on our pro-bono team, it was an opportunity to offer my architectural expertise and engage directly with the beneficiary in a way not often possible with other forms of charitable work.
 
Meeting with the end user and helping them work through the challenges and potential of their property was a positive experience. I was wary of the time commitment of juggling the pro-bono work with my existing project work but LandAid do a fantastic job of developing a very specific brief. The advice that we and other property professionals give can save the charities a significant amount of money that can instead be used to help those that need it most

The key aim of Winchester House redevelopment project is to better spatially organise its existing community services and provide self-contained residential units for people currently in emergency accommodation, providing a longer term and more independent housing solution. Over a working period of five days, we provided sketch plans and an area schedule for a more legible zoning system.

The centre is currently home to a seven-person mother and baby unit, nursery, well-being services, YMCA run youth day camps and a chapel which is used as an events venue. The YMCA want to expand facilities to provide residential units for those currently living in emergency accommodation and to better (spatially) organise its existing services. 

We provided plans for a more legible zoning system for the centre’s different uses and created individual entrances for each of the zones. It is anticipated that these changes will help to encourage a greater sense of security and community at the scheme.

The aim is that the new facilities will help those in need by offering a more affordable housing model (with subsidised rents and no upfront deposits) for new tenants. We have now submitted the study which will enable the YMCA and LandAid to progress the project further and apply for funding. 

I would warmly encourage anyone considering volunteering for pro-bono work as it is a unique way to engage our skills for a positive outcome. The experience is rewarding and our shared expertise can have a significant impact in the fight to end youth homelessness.