Last weekend, Everton in the Community celebrated its 33rd year in operation, and to mark the occasion, the charity is putting the spotlight on a member of staff who's been supporting young people in our communities for eight of those years.
‘Home Is Where The Heart Is’ manager, Amy Kirk, knows just how important Everton in the Community is for so many young people.
“I’ve worked with young people for a long time before I came to Everton in the Community; when you work with young people in different settings, you see huge gaps in support, especially care leavers.
“When they get to 18, the support stops. What are they going to do? Who is going to look after them? They’re still only 18 and still they’re young people who often have had a terrible time.
“And at Everton in the Community, we are there to fill those gaps.”
Amy manages the charity’s ‘Home Is Where The Heart Is’ programme which supports young people who are homeless or who are on the verge of being homeless. As well as the programme’s four-bedroom residential house which offers a place to stay and a place for support, the project is there to help local young people who have fallen on hard times.
The programme is there to signpost to support and to help young people emotionally, but the intervention is bespoke and centred around the individual’s needs, enabling EitC to identify risks, build confidence, resilience and emotional coping strategies to enable positive choices.
Before Everton in the Community, Amy worked in children's homes for 10 years before she went in search of a new challenge. She began her association with Everton by working at Everton Free School as a therapeutic engagement mentor, before moving on to the charity’s 41 Goodison project.
“I needed a bit of a fresh start and a job came up at Everton Free School as a therapeutic engagement mentor. The school offers alternative education opportunities for young people aged 14-16, and obviously I had experience working with kids of that age.
“At 41 Goodison I worked on the 'Breathing Space' programme before I went off on maternity leave. When I came back, I was asked to look at a new project called ‘Home Is Where The Heart Is’ and see what I thought and how I could get involved.
“We started to put a staff team together and alongside some of the more experienced staff – we put our heads together to build policies, procedures and how we would support these young people. It took a lot of effort from the team to get it off the ground and up to the high standards we set ourselves."
The programme received backing from Academy Director, David Unsworth, and his Under-23 side who committed to raising funds for the project through The Goodison Sleepout, which became the catalyst to the launch of Home Is Where The Heart Is.
The residential house was officially opened in July 2018, and Amy was appointed HIWTHI manager in November 2019. Four months later, as the world changed around them as a consequence of the pandemic, the HIWTHI team stayed the same, as did their determination to provide valuable support for residents.
“The team have worked straight through the pandemic” continued Amy.
“We didn’t want to work remotely with the participants; we had done a lot of work with them and some of them rely on the staff a lot more than others for emotional support, guidance and everything else. The team just didn’t want that (to work remotely), they wanted to be there for them so the decision was made from the off.
“Fortunately, everybody’s been well, we’ve all just muddled through, the team have been amazing and deserve great credit, they’ve done really well.
“We’ve had to adapt a lot of things around the house, such as cleaning and wearing masks. There was a lot of procedures put in place around hand washing, gloves and masks and trying to keep distance from each other and although we’ve implemented things to keep everybody safe, it hasn’t impacted the environment that we’re trying to create and it’s still such a nice home environment.”
That home environment is coupled with a positive one. Residents are still gaining employment as well as new skills to live independently. Despite the evident limitations, residents are still able to work on their relationships with family members where they’ve previously broken down in the past.
“We’ve had our challenges and it’s been really tricky at times” Amy added on how residents have coped during lockdown.
“Our residents have got on with it, it’s not been easy for anyone. When the lockdown started this time, we had a meeting to outline the rules, and they were devastated, some of them have got relationships going on and it’s hard, but they have been really good and we’re proud of them.”
Everton in the Community is enabling its supporters to be part of the charity in a whole different way to previous through its 'Together' campaign. Click here to find out more.