Our story so far

On 6 June 1844, 22-year-old draper George Williams and eleven friends organised the first Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), a refuge of Bible study and prayer for young men seeking escape from the hazards of life on the streets of London.


Two years later, the City of Liverpool Young Men’s Christian Association, now known as YMCA Together, was founded. 2021 marked our 175th birthday.


For almost two centuries, the YMCA has been a sanctuary of safety and a beacon of hope to everyone who needs us. We are dedicated to supporting people who are vulnerable, in need, lonely, isolated and overlooked. The people we support are at the heart of all we do. Our work is dedicated to their bravery, courage and tenacity as they build brighter futures for themselves and their families.

“We were established to be a place of hope, of light and unquestioning support to those people in our communities who needed us most and 175 years later we are still working to make sure that everyone has a home of their own, support from people who understand them and the skills they need for a better future.”


In 1846, poverty in Liverpool was rife. Social problems like problematic alcohol use, literacy challenges, worklessness and child poverty blighted the city streets. The docks brought people searching for a better life to the city, adding to an ever-growing population of people in need. 


We established the YMCA in Liverpool to address these problems and provide sanctuary. In 1877, we opened the first purpose-built YMCA on Mount Pleasant to shelter people experiencing homelessness, support runaway children and offer night school classes so people could get an education. 


We became a staging post for immigrants from the UK and Ireland leaving for the new world. Overloaded ships would reach Liverpool after losing a third of their passengers to disease and hunger. Survivors needed a safe place to rest before the next stage of their journey. So, in 1880, we took over Myrtle Street, a purpose-built gymnasium to support people’s health and well-being.

The First World War and the Great Depression depleted our resources. Many of our members and staff, including the deputy CEO, joined up in the Great War. However, we maintained a consistent service for the poorer working classes, surviving year to year with members’ donations and the sizable legacy of Mr Samuel Smith, a former Chair and President of the YMCA from 1888.


During the Great Depression, we opened the Gymnasium doors to the long-term unemployed, providing free services to the poorest communities in Liverpool. In 1932, Liverpool YMCA opened Everton Boys Club, with a coffee bar and youth centre. Our members formed flourishing martial arts and boxing clubs that excelled in regional and national competitions. These clubs are still around today under different names and in other places, but they were born at the YMCA.

Through the Second World War, the British Army requisitioned Myrtle Street gym. Then, in 1941, the American Army requisitioned Mount Pleasant as barracks for their soldiers. With no building of our own, we rented property close to Lime Street to offer accommodation to service men and women.


Across 6 years of war, 14,000 YMCA volunteers delivered more than 18.6 million meals and 660,000 nights of shelter to families and individuals. We kept up the morale of dockworkers by using tea vans to welcome returning ships and mourn those who did not.

After the war, raising money to reopen Mount Pleasant was a struggle. But in 1956, we opened the building again to provide 90 beds for men and women. Two years later, we added another 108 beds. 


By 2002, the building needed considerable work to meet modern standards. The Trustees decided to sell it and develop a new centre on Leeds Street. In 2007, we opened the purpose-built centre, providing 69 beds of accommodation to people experiencing homelessness. The YMCA began buying and developing dispersed accommodation, recognising that people needed their own place to live.


In 2011, we opened Dutch Farm, providing education and training opportunities to people we support through horticulture.


In 2012, we took over two smaller hostels, Ullet Road and Lister Road, that were in danger of closing.

Through our work, we recognised that many of the people we were supporting had experienced complex trauma. We needed to change our approach to offer them better support. So, in 2014, we began exploring how to deliver our services in a psychologically informed way by introducing a Cognitive Analytical framework.


This approach allowed us to expand into other areas of work. In 2016, we won the support contract for two domestic abuse refuges in the city. We opened a mental health service for people coming out of hospital needing somewhere safe to stay. We also brought together six other organisations to deliver 350 beds of accommodation-based support to people experiencing homelessness. 


2017 saw us merge with YMCA Sefton to create YMCA Liverpool and Sefton. The merger brought early years education into our work and reunited us with the health and well-being work from our early history.


In 2019, we won the contract to deliver residential rehab for people with a drug or alcohol issue in the city. We opened a purpose-built, psychologically informed service with 33 beds of en-suite accommodation and a floor of treatment space. Through this, we support more than 100 people out of addiction and into recovery every year.


Working through a pandemic to keep the most vulnerable people in our communities safe and cared for made 2020 the most challenging year in our history. But we didn’t shy away from the challenge. Throughout the year, our teams worked through uncertainty, turmoil and change to open emergency accommodation and bring people off the streets. We supported nearly 700 people, served 28,000 meals, and opened a new mental health service.


Today, we provide 300 accommodation beds across Liverpool, Sefton and Knowsley- that’s 109,500 bed spaces annually.


In 2021, we combined our services across these areas to become YMCA Together.


In 2024, we received Liverpool’s highest civic honour as Liverpool City Council admitted us to the Freedom Roll of Associations and Institutions.


In 2023 we set an ambitious strategy to reach more people and provide more impact, over the next 5 years we are working to make that happen. We are focusing on three key aims

  • Increasing impact and reach
  • Achieving social change
  • Sustainability for the future


We are YMCA Together. 

Here for you, wherever you’re at.