You can give a helping hand to young people in Watford being supported by Hightown Housing Association through a difficult start in their lives by putting tinned food and other items in donation banks in Co-op stores across the town.

Goods left in the special donation banks – which can also accept soft drinks, cosmetics, stationery, cleaning products and magazines – will go to vulnerable young people aged 16-25 who are being supported by Hightown to live independently.

Hightown’s Young People’s Housing Service (YPHS), provides supported accommodation in two converted houses in Watford as well as support services for those able to live more independently. The young people have had many different life experiences - including leaving care, being estranged from family or difficulties staying in education, training or work.

They include 18-year-old Sian Wildman who became homeless at the age of 16. Sian, who is soon to embark on a film course at West Herts College and has a passion for acting and performing, said she could still be living on the street if it wasn’t for the accommodation and support offered by Hightown.

“When I first came here, I had no food, no family, nothing. Without some of the words from my support worker, I don’t know where I would be. Without Hightown’s support I might still be living on the street,” she said.

Sian has been living in YPHS supported accommodation for six months and now wants to inspire others to achieve their dreams. “I want to inspire younger generations to come out of their shell and instead of being angry at their lives, do something positive, get out of their comfort zone and live life to the fullest.”
Charmaine Shaibo, 18, is also hoping to fulfil her ambitions after moving into YPHS supported accommodation in Watford when she was just 17 due to a breakdown in her family relationships.

She said: “When I started receiving support from Hightown, they really introduced me to the outside world as all I knew was home and school. Without their support I would be totally lost. They’ve taught me how to use public transport, pay bills, manage my finances and give me advice when I’ve needed it.”

Charmaine, who is studying Health and Social Care at Harrow College, is now being supported to live more independently at a YPHS ‘move-on property’. “I’m now responsible for everything around the house and the staff are not here 24/7. But I still feel very secure and I can call if I need any help”, she said.

“Thanks to the support I’ve received, I’m now well on my way to getting my own flat and living totally independently. I’ve been able to focus on my college course and getting into university to study midwifery”, she added.

Danielle Tocker, Scheme Manager for YPHS in Watford, said: “We’re really grateful to the Co-op for placing the donation banks in its stores across the town. Their customers can also be assured that any donations will be much appreciated by the young people we support, who have all had difficult times in their lives.

“Our aim is to support young people to gain the skills and confidence necessary for independent living, and it’s tremendous to see Sian and Charmaine making such a success of their lives. They are a real inspiration to others.”

Darren Aldridge, co-op’s area manager in the south, said: “As the number one community retailer, the co-op is best placed to be supporting Hightown in the Watford area.”