A little over a year ago the Horsham Matters charity had a vision to run a community youth work programme across the Horsham district.
Now, working in partnership with parish and neighbourhood councils, the Christian charity has realised its dream.
The charity started out six years ago as solely a secondhand furniture shop based in Guildford Road, Horsham.
Since then it has expanded its services to help run the Horsham homeless night shelter, a Trussell Trust foodbank and community grant scheme.
In all its work it aims to serve residents of the Horsham district without judgment, to help them practically in a range of ways.
The charity’s most recent initiative helps young people through the creation of 14 youth groups in ten areas of the district stretching from Horsham town in the north to Storrington and Steyning in the south.
They are run by a team of four full-time and six part-time youth workers and more than 40 volunteers.
The project started after West Sussex County Council cut funding to youth services and Horsham District Council sought to help where the county council could not.
Trevor Beadle, head of community and culture at HDC, said: “Given that much of the consultation we did with our residents emphasised the young people as one of our priorities, we wondered what to do with this.
“We went to parish councils who had previously expressed their disappointment over the loss of youth services. We acted as brokers in this.”
With financial support of the parish councils, HDC put out to tender a youth services contract, despite it not being its statutory duty to provide it.
Horsham Matters came out as the strongest candidate and it now works with the district council, county council, Sussex Police and parish and neighbourhood councils to provide a range of services for young people.
Mr Beadle continued: “We are incredibly encouraged by the successful start that has been made by Horsham Matters.
“I’m encouraged by the way they work with parish councils. I am encouraged by the way they respond to challenges - it’s not all been smooth running.
“I hope it will become a sustainable model for youth services in the district.”
The charity’s work has seen them help young people in a range of settings and from a range of backgrounds.
It runs a total of 55 regular events across the district each month engaging with around 300 young people.
Mr Beadle continued: “They are engaging with young people - they go into schools, they go to anti-social behaviour hotspots. Not only do they engage, they respond to their ideas in running activities.
“It’s a real springboard to a new relationship with young people. They are doing a great job.”
The Friday night Toasties Youth Club runs in the Scout Hall in Broadbridge Heath.
It is open access, but focuses on helping young people with the transition from primary to secondary school.
Youth worker for Horsham, Broadbridge Heath, Warnham and Slinfold Dan Fairchild said: “It started strong and it’s for school ages six to eight with the aim to help those in Year 6 going to Year 7.
“When they go into Year 7 they have got some friends made elsewhere. That’s really shown. We’ve had positive feedback from parents.”
The youth groups mostly run during term time and young people enjoy games, crafts and it provides a place for them to relax and socialise.
As well as the successful weekly groups, Horsham Matters has run one-off events including go-karting, skateboarding, a lambing trip and an outing to an acoustic gig.
A mobile skatepark comes to Storrington every week and during holidays the charity has held sports days.
The charity has partnered with Costa coffee shop in Horsham town centre to run a drop-in youth cafe there each Friday from September to June.
It will restart once the refurbishment of the West Street shop is complete and is open to any young person between 11 and 18.
It provides a safe environment in which to meet with friends with a ‘buy one get one free’ offer on all drinks with youth workers on hand to supervise. In addition to these clubs and activities, the charity supports existing youth providers such as ‘4theYouth’, the Riverside Project and other agencies as part of the Think Family Neighbourhood programme.
Another initiative Horsham Matters started was Hyper - Horsham Young Peoples’ Empowered Representatives. These are a group of young people interested in community issues in Horsham.
Dan said: “We have representatives from all the school councils at Tanbridge House, The Weald, Millais, Forest and Collyer’s College - as well as other individuals interested in having their voice heard in Horsham. We have links to the Youth Parliament. We are the grassroots level.
“It’s just there for them to understand a little bit about politics.”
One of the initiatives some of the young people raised was the lack of lighting in Horsham Park, which becomes more of a problem during the wintery dark nights.
Dan said: “We went through the process of speaking to the council and they have been really supportive. The council can’t do it, but it’s finding out the process so they are informed for life.
“What we are hoping to do next term is work with the politics teachers at Collyer’s to look at the parties.
“We are very aware young people are not getting into voting. We have got young people now interested in that.”
In the near future the charity hopes to set up two more youth councils covering the Storrington/Steyning area and Billingshurst.
When and Where the groups meet
Monday: Trafalgar Road Baptist Church, youth café for school years 7-11, 3.15-4.30pm;
First Friday of each month: Horsham Youth Council, The Granary, North Street, all secondary ages, 4.30-5.30pm
Every Friday: COSTA Coffee, West Street, drop-in for all secondary ages, 7.30-10pm
Friday: Toasties Youth Club for years 6–8, scout hall, 6.30-8.30pm
Monday: Mobile skate park behind Chanctonbury Leisure Centre; youth club in the football pavilion, years 6–11, 5-7pm
Steyning Cuthman Centre
Tuesday: Juniors youth club, years 7-8, 5-6.45pm; seniors youth club, years 9-13, 7-9pm
Wednesday: Drop-in for all secondary ages, 3.30-5.30pm
Thursday: Youth club for all secondary ages, 7-9pm
Monday youth café for years 9-13 at the baptist church, Church Lane, 7-9pm
Tuesday youth club for years 7-11, Jubilee Fields, Newbridge Road, 7-9pm
At the youth centre, Church Lane
Tuesday senior youth club for ages 14-17, 7-9.15pm
Thursday junior youth Club for years 6–8, 6.30-8.30pm
Monday youth club, St Mary’s CofE School, years 6–10, 5.30-7pm