Clients from YMCA Cardiff tackled local political candidates at a hustings event last week – 22nd March.
In total, 80 YMCA service users – homeless hostel residents, young people and young carers came together in the YMCA theatre and asked questions around Housing, Lowering the age to vote, Mental health, Young Carers, Bullying and other key issues. Candidates taking part were:-
Jenny Rathbone AM (Labour), Amelia Womack (Green), Eluned Parrott (Liberal Democrat), Dr Dafydd Tristan (Plaid Cymru), Steve Williams (Trade Union and Socialist Coalition)and Alexandra Phillips (UKIP)
The event was chaired by BBC presenter Lucy Owen.
The event was one of a number of hustings evenings being organised by local YMCAs across the country. It follows on from the release of the YMCAs in Wales Manifesto, which has made a series of recommendations to support YMCA clients to access better accommodation, health and wellbeing, family work and training and education.
Neil Ford is a resident at the hostel. He moved in in February following the loss of his flat after a period of intense personal problems. He also lived at the hostel when he was much younger and really values the support he received then. He wants the politicians to know how important it is that the YMCA can continue to provide “more than just a roof”.
He said: “I came to the event because I think it is important to make politicians understand what it is like to be homeless so they can make services better”
Andrew Jenkins, Chief Executive of Cardiff YMCA Housing Association said helping YMCA’s clients engage in democracy was a core priority.He said: “We believe everyone should have a voice within society and be engaged fully in local and national democracy.
“Our hustings event was about starting this engagement and giving our clients the chance to play an active and very important role in this election campaign.
“This election is a chance to put the people who use YMCA’s services at the forefront of policy to ensure their voices are heard as well as any other. By turning up tonight, asking questions and getting involved in debate, our clients showed that they care about politics and that they are determined to make a difference.”
YMCA Cardiff provides 122 homeless person bedspaces in the city supporting around 1000 people a year. It also runs youth clubs, a sexual health advice service for young people, supports young carers and runs a local community centre. YMCAs in Wales have 11,000 young people in Wales regularly participating in youth engagement work
The YMCA has been supporting communities in Cardiff since 1852 and is part of a global movement now helping more than 58 million people in 119 countries around the world.