Merthyr Housing First Celebrates One-Year Anniversary Story by Jordanne Pulvirenti – Merthyr Housing First for Youth Project Manager It is hard to believe that this time last year, in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic; we managed to open the Merthyr Housing First for Youth project. At the time, there was so much fear and uncertainty surrounding us. It felt like we were coming up against challenge after challenge but we knew the challenges we were facing, were nothing compared to the challenges young people in need of a safe place to call home were facing. Within weeks of opening the project, Ben* moved into one of the four permanent residency flats. Before moving in, Ben had experienced an exceptionally hard time. After leaving care age 16, he was placed in a B&B and then moved from hostel to hostel until finally coming to live here. Ben has come a long way since then and he has kindly agreed to share his story. Since the project opened in April 2020, we have supported nine young people, three of which came to stay in our emergency flats for a shorter period of time. The young people who come to us in emergencies still receive the same level of support as the young people who are permanent residents. The reason I think Housing First for Youth so unique is because the support we offer is not a stipulation of a young person's tenancy with us. At Llamau, we understand that the traumatic experiences of the young people coming to live here sometimes outweigh their ability to accept help, and that is ok, but if they do wish to engage with support, we offer wraparound care and support in the areas they are struggling with. Over the last 12 months, we have seen some brilliant outcomes for the young people we are supporting. Health and wellbeing remains one of our top priorities, with 75% of the young people living here telling us they feel that their physical health has improved and 50% have seen improvements in their mental health. To ensure we are offering the best support we can, we link with both internal and external services that provide young people with additional support and opportunities that they may not have had before. Helping young people to engage with education and training is another core priority for us, and working with Llamau’s Learning 4 Life offer, we have seen 50% of the young people we are currently supporting engage with education. When you see a young person like Ben using the skills they have learnt, it really is incredibly moving. Although the Coronavirus continues to challenge the young people currently living in the Merthyr Housing First for Youth project, we are all hopeful that they will continue to engage with support and at some point in the future, they will feel ready to move into their own home and live safely and independently.