It’s been 40 years since Peile House opened its doors in Sheffield.
The centre - whose doors never close - is an exclusively women-only hostel in the city, comprising of ten rooms in hostel style accommodation and four self-contained apartments. From this relatively small building, on Pitsmoor Road, young women and children, most of whom have nowhere else to turn, are helped to get back on their feet, through supported accommodation and one-to-one help. These women all come to the centre from different situations, some from difficult homes, others having suffered domestic violence, or child sexual exploitation.
“We believe that all young women, children and families deserve the very best opportunity to thrive, prosper and reach their full potential,” said Sue Mastro, project manager at Peile House, who has worked for YWCA Yorkshire for the past 15 years.
“Through a range of accommodation and support services, we seek to empower young women to live independent, happy and fulfilled lives; to take responsibility for their own futures and overcome some of the obstacles that have prevented them from moving forward positively.
“In the last five years, my staff and I have supported over 100 young women with accommodation and advocacy, to gain skills and knowledge in independent living to help them maximise positive outcomes and achieve their own personal goals, so that they can successfully move on from Peile House to live independently in their local communities.”
Peile House was launched in Sheffield on March 17 1978, by YWCA Yorkshire - a charity that helps young women and families to re-build their lives, providing them with accommodation, individual support and campaigning to end violence against women. Today the charity is based across five sites in Yorkshire, including Peile House, with over 80 staff members, supporting young women and their families, and ensuring they get the help they need. The centre is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and accepts referrals - for single young women and young women with children, aged 16 to 25 years - via Sheffield City Council’s Housing Support Pathway.
Sarah* came to Peile House when she was just 16, having fallen out with her mother and being kicked out by her friend’s parents. Close to adulthood, she was at a critical juncture in her life and hoped to go to university, but didn’t even have a safe and secure place to sleep at night, let alone study. At the time, the college she attended had become her home; arriving early and staying late were the only options.
“Moving into the YWCA was the worst feeling I’ve ever experienced,” said Sarah.
“I was in denial about the whole thing. I refused to believe that this had happened to me and I was now living in supported accommodation. The first few days were intolerable, sorting out benefits and things, it was all too much for me.”
Sarah struggled to adapt, as she also continued to struggle with the circumstances that had led her to seek emergency accommodation.
“My relationship with my mum by that time was non-existent,” she explained.
“She didn’t want me to go to college and university was a definite no. My responsibility to my four younger siblings was becoming more than just a big sister role.”
As Christmas approached, Sarah faced her first festive season away from her family.
“Christmas at YWCA turned out to be the best Christmas I’ve ever had,” she said.
“The project manager, Sue, really seemed to understand how important it is to be with people over the holidays and she made it really nice.”
As Sarah began to make friends with the other residents, she settled into her new life, and staff noted that she began to flourish.
“It wasn’t long until the YWCA began to feel like home,” she said.
“I have a group of friends now, plus the staff who work hard to make sure Peile House feels like a real home. I know some people will stereotype a place like that, but a home is all about the memories you create there, and I have great memories. This is my home.”
“Sarah is now studying at university and has big ambitions,” confirmed Sue.
“She has amazing determination and excellent spirit and we believe she is going to achieve everything she wants.”
Tracy Gollins, who has been CEO at YWCA Yorkshire for the past 25 years, said: “I am very proud to be involved with an organisation that helps so many young women, children and families to reach their potential and fulfil their dreams. We are a local charity, but we have a national reach and we are connected to a global movement that helps some of the most vulnerable people in the world. We have grown locally from a small Sheffield based charity to having a sub-regional presence working with hundreds of families in South Yorkshire.
“25 years has simply flown by, and I have witnessed many changes and challenges, particularly in relation to how we fund our projects and services. But throughout that time, I have never doubted that this organisation can and does make a massive impact on the lives of individuals and families. I have seen at first-hand how the right support, offered at the right time, by the right people has the power to changes lives forever, and this is what continues to drive me.”
Visitywcayorkshire.org.uk for details, or if you’re interested in volunteering for the charity.