YES Brixham started out in a garage behind Brixham’s old Post Office 20 years ago, as an advice, guidance and counselling service for young people. It worked closely with the statutory youth services until 2011, when support was withdrawn. Since then, its dedicated staff have worked to transform it into a sustainable community business. All of the trustees and staff at YES are local people, many of whom started out as young volunteers, and all of the programmes and activities are also led by local people.
Using grant money to purchase premises and build properties
Power to Change’s 2015 grant was transformative for the organisation. With it, YES Brixham was able to obtain a derelict site under the community asset transfer process. On the site, YES built two flats and two shops. The shops were kiosk units let out to small businesses, and the two flats were offered as affordable housing for local young people.
Furthermore, the organisation has been able to purchase its headquarters building, reducing its rental costs and allowing it to remain financially sustainable on its £25,000 per year rental income. Using grants from sources including Power to Change, YES has been able to secure £1 million worth of property, shoring up its financial future even further. YES Brixham also offers room hire in the space in the old church, and generates revenue from residential and commercial rents. Another significant income stream is its charity shop, which brings in around £60,000 a year.
Coping with Covid
The outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic affected operations for YES Brixham. Its charity shop had to close and staff were furloughed, but local authority grants were able to cover the lost income.
The charity found itself busier than ever in a different way, delivering food parcels and operating its ‘Stay Put’ project, providing handy household services for elderly people. One service user comments: “[Stay Put has] really supported me in lots of ways. I’ve got confidence that someone out there can help me now.”
Its team tackled the small jobs that can stop people living in their own homes, such as changing lightbulbs or trimming their hedges. This service was in high demand during lockdown. “We actually get some funding from the NHS for the handyman service,” says Andrew Wade, project management and fundraising manager. “Our pitch to them is that if people are happy and secure in their own homes, they’re less likely to be admitted to hospital.”
YES Brixham runs another project called ‘Home from Hospital’, which aims to prevent bed blocking in hospital by making simple adaptations to homes or gathering essential supplies so people can be discharged. Through these actions, YES Brixham hopes to restore and replicate a sense of neighbourliness that some modern communities have sadly lost. “It is a service, but it’s also a service to the volunteers who provide it, because they are getting their social and mental health needs met from the activity of volunteering,” says Andrew.
During Covid, YES Brixham secured a deal to lease three uncompleted two-bedroom houses – with an option to buy on their completion – and a government-issued Covid Bounce Back Loan was used to finance this.
The future of the organisation
YES Brixham is currently in the process of setting up a housing association as a registered provider, which will enable it to convert more buildings into affordable flats and houses. The group has just exchanged contracts on an old GP surgery, which it aims to transform into four flats.