The Amber Foundation: Offering Homes And Hope To Disadvantaged Young People

The Amber Foundation works with homeless and unemployed young people in Devon, Wiltshire, and Surrey, housing up to ninety 16-30 year olds across their three supported living centres.

The young people come from a wide area around each centre. For example, at the Ashley Court centre in Devon, staff welcome individuals from across the South West – many of whom will be arriving from places such as Exeter and Torquay. 

The young people who come to Amber are grappling with complex problems. Common issues are family breakdown, leaving care, a recent prison release, or losing a private tenancy. 

However, the majority of their service users are also dealing with issues like trauma, mental health challenges, low self-esteem, and addiction. Some may have made a few poor decisions and seen their lives go drastically and rapidly wrong due to lacking appropriate support.

The Amber Foundation offers young people supported housing with a difference, as the support extends well beyond providing a bed and three meals a day. 

Every young person welcomed to an Amber Foundation centre receives a bespoke package of support, and takes part in an abstinence-based structured development programme. 

The young residents are encouraged to think about what they want to do in life, and to explore new hobbies and interests. During their stay, they gain accredited training in the skills needed to live independently and function in the workplace. Some also attend college and complete work experience, additional programmes, or vocational courses.

Cole’s Story

Cole arrived at the Amber Foundation shortly after being arrested for drug possession. The arrest was a wake-up call for Cole, as it showed him that he needed to do something drastic in order to change his situation. 

He had been living in temporary accommodation near where he grew up, but the arrest prompted him to move somewhere new, so he could take control of his life. That was where the Amber Foundation came in.  

Right from the start, Cole got involved in all aspects of the programme and achieved a range of qualifications, along with studying for his Maths and English GCSEs. 

In Cole’s words:

‘Amber gave me structure, it was brilliant. Yes, it kept me sober, but it also gave me all the tools to sort myself out, and motivated me to move on with my life.’ 

He also worked with the digital marketing agency Waffle, who wanted to help support and mentor a young person to build a career in digital marketing. With the company’s support, Cole enrolled on a traineeship at college, where the Amber Foundation helped him access a bursary to purchase a laptop so he could complete his studies. 

After a 9-month stay, Cole was able to move on from the Amber Foundation and he now lives in a shared house. 

He is continuing his studies, and plans to start a marketing apprenticeship once his traineeship is complete. He is also volunteering as a peer mentor to young people with addiction issues.  

‘I can’t thank the staff at Amber enough for what they have done for me. The whole team and all the other residents helped me on my journey; there was always someone available to talk to if needed, or to give advice. They just want you to do well, and offer support and encouragement whenever it is needed. They really did save my life.’

Kian’s Story

Kian became homeless aged 18 following a family breakdown. 

Before arriving at the Amber Foundation, he was sofa-surfing and sleeping rough. He was then assigned a housing officer by the council, who suggested he apply to come and live at an Amber Foundation centre.

Then, as Kian puts it: 

‘I was offered a place quickly, and just over a week after I applied, I moved in. It was scary at first, but I settled in after a few weeks. The staff were really helpful, especially my team leader, Tom; he helped me get support for my mental health. 

‘He really made time for me and was a very good listener. Being around people who had been through similar things was helpful too – we all helped each other out.’

Kian has always been a keen cook, having studied catering at college. 

At each Amber Foundation centre, there is a rota system in place where residents form teams and take turns to cook for the whole house. Kian thoroughly enjoyed being in the kitchen – especially when he was able to experiment with puddings and cakes.

‘During lockdown, I made a traybake from leftover Easter egg chocolate and some packet mixes – it ended up working really well and was demolished in minutes by the other young people staying here!’

During his stay with the Amber Foundation, Kian had the chance to attend a ‘Sleep Out’ event at the Eden Project, where he was introduced to someone who worked at Rick Stein’s restaurant. 

This led to some amazing opportunities for Kian, and supported by staff from the Amber Foundation, he attended a dessert-planning session with all the head chefs from the group, plus a cook-off event where he cooked dishes alongside them.

Kian moved on from the Amber Foundation after rebuilding his relationship with his mum to the point where they felt able to live together again. He also secured a job as a sous chef at a busy restaurant. 

‘My life is so much better now, and I feel like I am progressing again. If it weren’t for Amber being there when I needed it, I know I wouldn’t be where I am now. I was in a bit of a state when I first arrived – I think my stay there saved me. Without it, I really think I could have died.’

Climbing To Great Heights

One way that businesses can get involved with the Amber Foundation is through fundraising. 

Every year, the Amber Foundation has to fundraise over 50% of their income, so businesses choosing to get involved is always very welcome.  

One business that recently supported them is the international recruitment company Adzuna, whose staff from around the world took on an almighty climbing challenge. 

Their aim as a group was simple: raise £3,000 and ‘climb to the stratosphere’ – i.e. over two and a half times the height of Mount Everest!

Given the remote and socially distant nature of the challenge, their team had to get creative about how to tackle the ascent. 

Staff climbed throughout the day across all corners of the Earth. From scaling the Sydney Harbour Bridge and summiting the Acropolis, to pounding the StairMaster in the local gym, the creativity shown was immense. 

The top prize must go to office manager Bobbie, who managed a ridiculous 800 metres worth of ascent on her local climbing wall.

In total, the team recorded 26,635 metres of ascent. Not quite enough to reach the top of the stratosphere, but a phenomenal effort nonetheless. And what’s more, they blew their fundraising target out of the water, raising over £4,000 to support the Amber Foundation’s work.

Upcoming Events In The South West

Friday 8th October – 6pm: Fundraising Fire Walk at Ashley Court (EX18 7EX)

Entry to our professionally supervised firewalking event is £25, with a fundraising target of £150. All walkers need to complete the ‘Learn Or Burn’ training before doing the walk itself, which will take place on a 20-foot lane of hot embers.

The minimum age for participants is 14, however parental consent will be required for under 16s.

Thursday 18th November: Sponsored Sleep Out at The Eden Project

The entry cost for this event is £15, with the fundraising target being £100.

Depending on the COVID rules in place at the time, it may be a virtual event, a live event, or a hybrid event.

Article by The Amber Foundation

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