A Cumbrian charity is equipping young people facing homelessness with the essential items they need to start living independent lives thanks to a four-figure grant from the region’s biggest building society.

Carlisle Key provides assistance and support for young people aged from 16 to 25 who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, and aims to give them the knowledge, support and confidence they need to go on and live independently.

It runs a drop-in centre on Fisher Street in Carlisle which has remained open every day during the coronavirus outbreak and has also recently opened an 11-bed supported accommodation unit which is already nearing full occupation.

Newcastle Building Society has given the charity a £2,537 grant through its English Street branch in Carlisle to enable it to provide welcome packs for service users who don’t have the essential basic items they need to start living independently.

The packs include duvets and other linen, kettles, toasters, crockery, cutlery, kitchen utensils and toiletries, with the Society grant funding the purchase of 22 separate sets.

Iain McNee, operations manager at Carlisle Key, says: “The pandemic hasn’t made the needs of young people who are facing homelessness diminish or go away, and the importance of keep our services running, albeit with extra safety measures in place, has been very clear.

“We work with young people from all backgrounds who are facing a wide range of different, often complex issues and aim to give them the support, guidance and advice they need to make positive progress.

“Many of our service users come to us with very little, which can obviously be a real barrier to them being able to live independently, and with Newcastle Building Society’s support, the welcome packs we’ve been able to offer make a massive difference to their quality of life as they start on the next stage of their journey.”

Carlisle Key works with service users from across Carlisle and Cumbria, as well as people from further afield who have moved to the area and have no local contacts.

It helped almost 300 young people during 2019, and has also previously used the English Street branch’s community space as a neutral location for meetings with some of its service users.

The funding has been provided by the Newcastle Building Society Community Fund at the Community Foundation, which was set up to offer grants to charities and community groups located in or around the communities served by the Society’s branch network.

Matt Taylor, manager at Newcastle Building Society’s Carlisle branch, adds: “The Carlisle Key team has such a positive impact on the young people that it helps, many of whom could be living on the streets without their involvement.

“Their commitment to improving the well-being of our community matches our own and we’re very pleased to be extending the support that we provide for its invaluable work.”

Since its launch in 2016, Newcastle Building Society’s Community Fund has contributed over £1.8m in grants and partnerships with the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and the Princes Trust. The grants are so far estimated to have had a positive impact on more than 151,000 people.

In response to the coronavirus outbreak, the Society also made a £100,000 contribution to the £1m appeal set up by the Tyne and Wear Community Foundation for its Coronavirus Recovery and Response Fund.

The Newcastle Building Society Community Fund is run in association with the Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland.