LATEST UPDATE: The Faces of Routes exhibition ran for over a month and raised well in excess of £30,000. The Save Routes campaign as a whole raised over £60,000 and Routes is now safe for the coming year. The community support received means it’ll be easier for Routes to find grant funding in the next couple of years. I have left the rest of this post as it was when I launched the exhibition.

This portfolio has been set up to showcase the plight of Frome’s only youth drop-in centre which is currently under threat of closure.

Routes helps young people in distress by offering non-judgemental help, advice and support in a calm environment. Permanent funding is urgently needed to keep the service running and I undertook a project to photograph some of the young people who either have benefitted in the past, or who are benefitting now, so that they could have a voice.

These portraits were taken to accompany case studies of the youngsters which will be used as part of funding applications, press campaigns and an exhibition at Cafe La Strada in Frome which is now on show, ending some time in March.

Here you can see the faces and read the stories (see below the portrait set) of those who’ve had struggles in their early lives, but who have found help and support through Routes.

If you would like to donate to Routes you can either text MEND41 £AMOUNT (between £1 and £10) to 70070, or donate via the website www.mendipymca.org.uk

I would like to thank all those who posed so wonderfully for me, also thanks to Mount Art Studios for their stunning printing, Studio Prints for turning around the framing at break-neck speed and to Nik Jones for getting the exhibition words designed onto all the photos (it would have taken me for ever and would have looked rubbish).

Alexander Jordan-Edney (Ali):

I first came to Routes when a friend dragged me in on our way home from college, saying it was a really nice place – they were right! I’m autistic and I often find public places difficult to be in, but Routes understands and it’s a really calming place for me. They’ve helped me when I was being bullied and it’s a place I get lots of encouragement. Routes really is the best place I’ve ever been to.

I think it’s absolutely rubbish they may have to close. People should do everything they can to save it.

 

Tommy-Lee

I visited Routes for the first time after being handed a flyer and thought I’d come and see what it was like. I found the staff really listened to me, helped me when I was struggling with bullying and how I was feeling and gave me a safe social space for me to spend time. I had some difficult times and Routes always helped. Routes has made it possible to make new friends, learn how to assert myself and to approach hard times with a more positive approach.

They help loads of people with lots of different things and it would really make me worry if they close as to what I’d end up doing and where I’d go, as there isn’t anywhere else like it.

 

Kieran:

I found out about Routes from my family who brought me in when I was really struggling with my anger. I had problems with my family relationships, homelessness and getting into fights, so a lot of stuff really. They helped me understand myself better, and really saved me from some bad situations. I’ve received help with finding activities to keep myself busy, help with my mental health and lots of help getting my finances sorted as that was something I really had a tough time getting a handle on.

It’s not good at all that they’re at risk of closing. They help young people with everything they could need, no matter how bad their situation may seem. The staff there are spot on, and all I have left to say is SAVE ROUTES! 

 

Dominic:

I first came into Routes with a friend, and found the café a nice space and the staff to be understanding and helpful. I offered my help as a volunteer about 3 years ago, and I’m still here today! Routes has always been a safe space and flexible to my needs as I’m autistic and struggle with loud noises and some other things. The staff are knowledgeable and services like this need to be protected as there are no other spaces as accessible, non-judgemental and knowledgeable as Routes.

 

Laura:

I heard about Routes from a friend. I came to them for help when I was being evicted from my property, and as I was a young single mum I was scared I was going to end up on the streets. Routes helped me and found me a home. Over the years I’ve received lots of their support from finances and benefits, to support with my confidence.

I’ve used Routes for the past 6 years, It’s really upsetting it’s at risk of closure, and I feel really concerned about Routes closing as I wouldn’t know where else I could go if I needed any help. Routes is a very friendly place to go, they will always welcome you with open arms and try their hardest to support you and find a way to make things better whatever the problem is.

 

Patsy:

I first heard about Routes through the school counsellor, when I was about 16 years old. I had nowhere to live, and was really struggling. Routes was great, they helped me with so many different things; accessing counselling, and with eventually finding work. They help young people with everything and they’ve helped me so much over the past few years. I’m now securely employed and I couldn’t have imagined this being something that would have been possible for me before I received the support from Routes.

I think it’s an awful situation that Routes is at risk of closing, it would be absolutely devastating if it were to close.

 

Stuart:

I first came to Routes when I, and my partner at the time, had fallen on some bad-luck. We were really struggling particularly with money and so when I came in, saw the staff and found out how helpful, non-judgemental and supportive they were, it really meant a lot. They helped us with making sure we were claiming everything we were entitled to, help with our bills, and getting foodbank when we needed it and were able to help find me work straight away which was amazing. They are everything for young people, whether you need someone to listen to your problems that won’t judge you, someone to put the time and support in to help you sort things out, or to actually get you access to services you wouldn’t have the confidence to go to yourself, they are all of those things and more. They’re people you can trust and have never let anyone down.

I really feel if Routes closes there will be a lot of people in serious trouble.

 

Imogen:

I first came in with a lady, who she was, I’ll never know, as I needed help finding somewhere to live and just generally sorting my life out. Routes helped me with everything. They’ve given me ways to manage my anger and I’m now helping within Routes, as I need things to keep me occupied and give me a sense of purpose, otherwise I struggle.

The thought of Routes closing really gets to me. There will be a higher percentage of homelessness and crime rates will go up all because Routes would be gone. Whether you’re in difficulty or not, Routes is a safe space and is always welcoming so I could not imagine not being able to spend time there. It’s been such a big support, I really do feel that life would be over if they close.

 

Jake:

I first came to Routes with friends when I was being made homeless. They listened to me, and helped me get into housing. There are really few places that you can go to when you’re young and have no money, and that’s important as I’d be in a very different situation, if I couldn’t have spent time in Routes when I literally had nowhere else to go and was feeling very down. They gave me an opportunity to volunteer in the café, and I did a lot of training courses through them, which definitely helped me find work. You’re not just a number when you come to Routes, they get to know you and that is really important as you never need to ‘start from the beginning’ you can come in if you’re feeling rubbish or if things aren’t going great and they’ll understand and know a way of making things better. I can have a laugh with the staff and chat about music, gaming and they always have time for me.

 

Nicola:

Friends told me about Routes when I was 17 and had ended up homeless. They helped me get housing, put me through training courses and took me on as a volunteer which gave me lots to add to my CV. They supported me with job applications and prepared me for my interview for the job I’ve now been in for years! Routes is a place for young people to go whatever the issues is, and they will always help and guide you in the right direction. If it wasn’t for Routes I don’t know where I would be today. They helped me with so many things in my life, and helped make me into the person I am today.

I think it would be a great loss to the young people of Frome and would have a major impact on the town if they close.

 

Mona:

I moved to the area last year, pretty much stumbled across Routes and never left as it’s so nice! They really are the only safe space in Frome for people like me, and I’ve found a wonderful volunteering opportunity there in their youth café. Routes provides me with lots of support with my social anxiety which has enabled me to make friends. All I can say really is come to Routes, and just find out why it’s so special for yourself!

I really do feel that if Routes closes, I’m going to move; I wouldn’t have enough reason to stay in Frome.

 

Jasmine (Jazz):

A friend at school told me about Routes, after I left home two years ago and I came initially for support with my independence. Through everything I’ve been through, homelessness and family difficulties, they’ve been great. I know so many people who have had support from Routes and wouldn’t have made it through without them. Routes has become a key part of my life, keeping me off the streets, and being a safe space where I’ve made so many friends. Anyone I meet who needs support, no matter what it is, I advise to go to Routes. They are the only safe and supportive space in Frome for young people and the staff are lovely trustworthy people.

I really believe it will be hugely detrimental for the mental health and wellbeing of a lot of young people if Routes closes.