Our story so far
“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.”
On 6 June 1844, 22 year-old draper George Williams joined 11 friends to organise 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 and 2021 marks our 175th birthday year.
Throughout our 175 years the YMCA has been a sanctuary of safety and a beacon of light and hope to everyone who needs us. Quietly working to support people who are vulnerable, in need, lonely, isolated and overlooked. The people we support are at the heart of all we do and this film is dedicated to their bravery, courage and tenacity to build a different future for themselves and their families.
In 1846, Liverpool had many people experiencing poverty and the docks brought many more people into the city who were searching for a better life. The YMCA in Liverpool was established to address the social problems at the time including child poverty, problematic alcohol use, literacy challenges and worklessness, by providing safe space and sanctuary to people in need. In 1877 we opened the first purpose built YMCA on Mount Pleasant to facilitate the work we were doing, providing shelter to people who were homeless, supporting run away children and developing night school classes for people to gain an education.
We became a staging post for immigrants from the UK and Ireland leaving for the new world. Very often overloaded ships reached Liverpool after losing a third of their passengers to disease, hunger and other causes. They needed sanctuary and a place to rest before they started the next stage of their journey. In 1880 we took over Myrtle Street, a purpose built gymnasium to support peoples health and wellbeing.
Throughout the First World War and the great depression we survived the depletion of our resources and maintained a consistent service for the poorer working classes. Many of our members and staff joined up in the Great War including the deputy CEO. We survived from year to year on the donations of members and a sizable legacy of Mr Samuel Smith, a former Chair and President of the YMCA from 1888.
During the great depression the Gymnasium opened its doors to the long term unemployed providing free services to the poorest communities in Liverpool. It was during this time, in 1932, Liverpool YMCA opened Everton Boys Club, which had a coffee bar and youth centre. From here martial arts and boxing clubs were formed. Our members excelled in regional and national competitions. These clubs are still around today under different names and in different places but have their origin at the YMCA.
During the Second World War Myrtle Street gym was requisitioned by the British army and in 1941 Mount Pleasant was requisitioned by the American Army to use 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.
During the 6 years of the war, we delivered 18,620,316 meals to families who were homeless through 14,000 volunteers and provided 665,799 nights of shelter for people. Utilising tea vans we kept up the morale of those working on the docks, welcoming ships returning and mourning those that did not.
The ten years after the war saw a struggle to raise money to re-open Mount Pleasant and in 1956 the building opened again providing 90 beds of accommodation for men and women., 2 years later another 108 beds were added.
By 2002 the building needed considerable work to bring it up to modern standards and the Trustees made the decision to sell it and develop a new centre on Leeds Street.
In 2007 the purpose built centre was opened, providing 69 beds of accommodation to people who are homeless. Recognising that people then needed accommodation of their own to move in to, the YMCA began buying and developing dispersed accommodation.
In 2011 we opened Dutch Farm, providing education and training opportunities to people we support through horticulture.
2012 saw us taking over two smaller hostels, Ullet Road and Lister Road that were in danger of closing.
We recognised that a lot of the people we were supporting had experienced complex trauma and that we needed to change our approach in order to better support them so in 2014 we began to explore how to deliver our services in a psychologically informed way, using a Cognitive Analytic approach as our framework.
This approach enabled us to expand into other areas of work and in 2016 we won the support contract for two domestic abuse refuges in the city. We also opened a mental health service for people coming out of hospital who needed somewhere safe to stay and brought together 6 other organisations to deliver accommodation based support to people who were homeless across 350 beds of accommodation.
2017 was the year we merged with YMCA Sefton to create YMCA Liverpool and Sefton. This merger brought early years education into the work we were doing and reunited us with the health and wellbeing work from our early history.
In 2019 we were successful in winning 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 are able to support over 100 people out of addiction and into recovery every year.
2020 was the hardest year in our modern history, working through a pandemic to keep the most vulnerable people in our communities safe and cared for. We also opened additional emergency accommodation to bring as many people as possible off the streets and into accommodation. Throughout this year our teams worked through uncertainty, turmoil and change to support nearly 700 people in our services, we served 28,000 meals and opened a new mental health service.
Today we provide 300 beds of accommodation across Liverpool, Sefton and Knowsley which is 109,500 bed spaces per year.
In 2021 we brought everything together to become YMCA Together.