Empty city centre building gets new life as a youth charity.
A leading Sheffield charity helping young people make a difference is ‘in its Element’ after moving into a towering new home in the heart of the city centre.
The vast three-storey property – which overlooks the Town Hall and Peace Gardens – is now a giant youth club and meeting space and will become a hub for a host of young people’s charities.
The Yorkshire Building Society has handed over its offices, which had stood empty for ten years, to the Element Society on a peppercorn rent.
Element Society has empowered over 2,400 young people to change their lives and their communities since it launched six years ago.
“This is a huge boost for the young people of Sheffield,” said the charity’s founder and CEO Chris Hill, 34.
“There are places in the city centre where young people can go for specific support, but thanks to the generosity of YBS, this is now the first safe space where they can come to be themselves, make new friends, develop ideas they are passionate about and be encouraged to make a difference in their communities.”
Element Society began as a youth project working with 12 young people, but swiftly ballooned and now works with at least 500 each year of all abilities, backgrounds and religions.
It helps young people be the creators of the changes they want to see in society and over 160 projects have resulted, tackling issues including knife crime and child sexual exploitation.
Its young people have done over 140,000 hours of voluntary work through the National Citizen Service – worth nearly £1million to Sheffield. Element has delivered 38 annual four-week summer programmes for 15 to 17-year-olds and is gearing up to work with another 250 students from its new home on July 1.
Chris set up his charity after working on the launch of the national Young Mayor Network, which got school-age children involved in local politics.“There’s a perception that young people don’t want to make a difference in the world, but the enthusiasm I saw said otherwise. They just need the opportunity,” he said.
Element was based in a cramped office on Arundel Street when it was offered one floor of Yorkshire House by agents acting for YBS.
“We convinced them we could do great things with all 12,000 feet of space and our young people became the architects, deciding how they wanted the building to work,” said Chris.
“We are thrilled and so grateful to be here. This property is going to make a huge difference, not just to Element but also to other charities in the city.”
Evening social clubs are planned, and the aim is for other youth charities to be based in the building.
Already, Element has hosted events for charities and trusts including ChilyPep which promotes the rights, wellbeing and opportunities of all young people across Sheffield and South Yorkshire, the English Football League Trust and Families Together, a therapeutic intervention service for families.
But despite its prime position at the top of Fargate, the building is dated and has no working elevator, which severely restricts disability access. Element is already connecting with businesses to back a fundraising campaign to ‘Lift the Lift’.
Paul Blomfield, MP for Sheffield Central, has given his backing to Element Society’s plans for its new home. He said: “A building which has stood empty for years is now a place our young people can call home and find their voice. This is great news for our city centre, and our youth. Element Society’s new home will make a huge difference. It deserves support from everyone.”