During their time with us, residents are encouraged to get the most from YMCA with support to attend courses, life journeys, volunteering, training and education. Ronnie Beharry, who is in his 50s, is one such resident who has been living at YMCA Surbiton since 2015.
Living in a hostel can be challenging due to its transient nature; it’s a stepping stone to a new life for people who have experienced very difficult circumstances.
Ronnie has found his time at the Surbiton hostel a positive experience and has recently completed a web coding course at Richmond Adult Community College (RACC). YMCA London South West provides funding for residents to attend courses at RACC and pays for their travel, too. “The web course at Richmond College challenged me! It was quite intense but it was a good course and I enjoyed it. It was also really nice to meet a lot of other professional people there too,” says Ronnie.
There’s a whole range of courses and projects available for residents to try with other community organisations. Along with some other hostel residents, Ronnie went on a course at the nearby Hook Road recording studios. This was a part of the Kingston RPM: Records, People and Music Project which is run by Creative Youth Kingston. The course is free and the Community Activities Team at YMCA Surbiton liaise closely with Creative Youth to make the course accessible for residents. “The course was fun and we actually produced a track together which was great, especially as I used to work in showbusiness,” says Ronnie. “Training and courses like this give you a sense of purpose.”
And a sense of purpose is definitely what Ronnie needed, as his story is a poignant one. Ronnie became homeless after his marriage broke down and his events company was hit by the recession. After his divorce he found himself homeless and with very little money. He had no family nearby to fall back on and the goodwill of friends grew thin. “I found myself running out of money, I slept in my car until I had to sell it. Then I slept on park benches, in car parks and sofa surfed. It got to a point where I developed a drink problem,” says Ronnie.
He was referred to local homelessness charity, Kingston Churches Action on Homelessness, which found him a room at YMCA Surbiton. “It was a turning point in my life,” says Ronnie. “I took a lot of positives from this place – and I still do.”
The best thing about living in the hostel for Ronnie has been meeting new friends and doing projects together like the voluntary painting. “It was fun to give something back to YMCA,” he says. “I will look back in 10 years’ time and know that I had a good experience here.”
YMCA is delighted to work closely with Richmond and Hillcroft Adult Community College. We regularly take residents to open days at Hillcroft College in Surbiton on Thursdays to enrol on courses. We also have residents attending classes on the 20:20 program and doing short courses at the Richmond Adult Community College campus in Richmond.