This project supports young people in Wisbech and March who identify as LGBTQ+ or who are questioning their sexuality or gender identity. Youth Group Lead Debi Mordanti talks about how the project has adapted to support people during the cost of living crisis.
Since the cost of living crisis we have created a free shop in our office that’s a clothing swap and a place to access food. We’ve seen the amount of people come to the meet and eat programme increase so much, especially since last autumn.
In December we had a Christmas meet and eat where we cooked Christmas dinner and 40 people signed up– that’s the limit for these meetings, and each time we offer it we’re maxing out. Prior to autumn where we weren’t we were getting ten or fifteen people.
A lot of parents are thankful for those spaces, thankful for the food – because we do provide food at all of our groups as well, generally snacks, crisps, fruit. Members can take home any leftovers, and more and more people are bringing carrier bags with them to take the leftovers home with them. That never happened as much before this autumn.
There were certain project members that we knew were disadvantaged and had greater need for provision, but generally more and more people are in need of food. A few parents have also told us that they’ve had to go to food banks for the first time in their lives as well, even though they’re working.
We distribute food vouchers, and there were very few requests from them prior to last autumn, and now we’re asked for them all the time.
We also do a travel bursary and we’ve been giving that out a lot more. We don’t ask for any financial statement, we always do the unconditional positive regard [showing complete support and acceptance of a person no matter what that person says], so if people say they want to come to group but can’t afford the train fare or the bus fare, we reimburse them fully for that.
The cost and availability of public transport affects our youth workers as well as our young people, and if staff or volunteers can’t reach the group meetings, we can’t go ahead. There isn’t a train station in Wisbech and bus services have been reduced while going up in price. So the only option is often for me to pick them up in the car from March train station myself. There’s such a lack of access to provision and support in Wisbech and similar places, and this harms the LGBTQ+ community particularly.
We’ve started a clothes swap where young people can take or donate anything they want. This helps massively, not only because of the rising price of everything, but because a high percentage of our project members are gender variant. They might not be out at home so they can’t ask parents for more feminine clothes or more masculine clothes, and they might not feel comfortable in high street shops. The clothes swap is a space where they can try on different styles. And sometimes we can keep the clothes in the office for them, we’ll wash them, and when they come back they can wear them again if they don’t feel comfortable doing so in other places.
We’re doing our best to keep up with the increased demand for our services right now. The amount of other services that refer young people to us has risen because they have waiting lists and want the young person to be supported in some way sooner than they can offer. They often assume that our one-to-one programme is far greater or has more capacity than it actually does.
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