Ella’s life undeniably changed forever when in 2010 she was given the devastating news that her mother had passed away following her battle with a debilitating illness.

Her parents had divorced and Ella, her mum and younger brother had moved into an accessible bungalow to accommodate their needs. Despite Ella still being in school, she became an evening carer for her mother; making evening meals for herself and young brother and helping with her mother’s bedtime routine.

Ella’s mum regularly spent time in and out of hospital however, on that carefree afternoon as Ella was out playing with her friends, she was delivered the heartbreaking news that would change her life.

Following her mother’s death, Ella and her younger brother were separated. Whilst her brother went to live with his father, Ella moved in with her grandmother. Ella’s grandmother had ongoing mental health issues which were exacerbated by the death of her daughter. Whilst Ella was living there, her grandmother tried to commit suicide on three separate occasions.

Following their own financial difficulties Ella’s aunty and uncle were forced to move in with her grandmother. Ella felt relieved they were able look after her grandmother and felt that this may be a good time for her to leave her grandmother’s house.

It was during this time that Ella confided in a friend she had met at school about her difficult home life. This friend was living at YMCA Doncaster and recommended that Ella apply for accommodation.

The next day Ella’s friend brought her an application and, following an interview, she soon moved into the YMCA.

Ella states that the move gave her independence and the chance to concentrate on herself for the first time in many years. She soon realised that though she had been a carer and kept the family together she still needed to learn some basic skills such as budgeting her money.

Ella progressed well through her one to one support sessions with her keyworker and showed a commitment to moving forward.

In 2012/13 YMCA Doncaster received funding to renovate an unused staff flat to create shared accommodation at the top of the building, known as the ‘Penthouse’. The aim of this project was to help young people gain the skills necessary to manage shared communal areas; shared accommodation is often the only affordable move on option for young people.

Due to the progress Ella had made she was the first person to be referred to the Penthouse. Ella stated that the biggest learning curve was being able to trust other people with her food; having a communal kitchen can lead to arguments. Through keywork support clear ground rules were set to enable the Penthouse residents to live harmoniously. Ella added “it’s all about compromise I’m not going to stress if someone wants a tea bag but I will get upset if my food is eaten”.

Ella is now coming to the end of her two years with us and she will be moving out through our Private Rented Sector Programme. Ella and another YMCA resident will be moving into a two bedroom property within the next month.

Ella has recently registered on a social care course and hopes to gain employment in the care sector. When asked what her future dreams are Ella did not hesitate in answering “I want a house, job, car and family – the normal stuff”.

There are many ways you can support our work with young people like Ella. Please click here for information on how you might be able to help.