Benjamin Foundation pioneering North Walsham project gives young people skills and homes

A milestone has been reached in a pioneering project aimed at tackling two major problems facing young people in Norfolk - homelessness and a lack of job skills.

Supporters of the Benjamin Foundation gathered in North Walsham today to celebrate the official opening of two more 'move-on' flats, built for, and by, homeless young people.

A team of six young men has spent the past two years working with tradesmen on four flats as part of the foundation's Train to Build project during which they have learned skills including plastering, plumbing and carpentry and gained qualifications in maths, English, technical drawing and passed their Construction Skills Certification Scheme test.

The one-bedroomed flats provide a half-way house for vulnerable people aged 16-25 hoping to move into their own independent accommodation after spending time in the foundation's Winston Court hostel, which is on the same Mundesley Road site.

Five of the construction team now had jobs connected to the building trade, according to Wayne Miles, Winston Court manager.

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The include Tony Fuller, 21, from Felbrigg, near Cromer, who has found full-time work with a window and door company in North Walsham.

'I wouldn't have got it without the skills I learned doing this project. It's also improved my confidence,' said Mr Fuller. 'I'm quite impressed with the flats.'

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Fellow flats builder Russell Amos, 26, from North Walsham, said as well as practical skills, he had learned the discipline of getting up on time and working a long day.

Winston Court resident Kay-Leigh Vousden, 19, has had a taste of living in one of the flats and will be moving back there shortly. 'They're very well thought out - comfortable and warm. You feel like you're living independently,' she said.

Funding for the project came from two major donors - insurance firm Aviva and a legacy left by Susan Christian, who died in 2007.

Mrs Christian, from Old Catton, supported the foundation for a number of years with her daughter Ayshea, who cut the ribbon in her mother's memory, officially opening the new flats.

Mr Miles said that Winston Court, which offers supported accommodation to nine young people, received about three or four referrals each week.

The move-on flats meant those in Winston Court who were ready for more independence could move out, leaving rooms vacant for others in need.

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