Young people, staff and volunteers all play an active part in KEY

25 Years This year marks 25 years since KEY was set up. We will be marking our 25th anniversary with a series of exciting events throughout the year, a total of 25 in fact. Dates for these will be announced via our Facebook Page and News Section.

Who We Are

KEY is a small local charity based in South Tyneside. We provide advice, support and accommodation to young people aged 16 to 25 who are experiencing hardship and / or threatened with homeless.

It was set up in 1992 by volunteers from several local churches that came together after a homeless young man died on the streets in winter. KEY has grown steadily since then and now employs 10 workers (full & part-time) and 15 volunteers. We directly support and advise up to 100 young people each year.

We are proud of our strong links with the link community who are involved on our Board of Trustees and actively volunteer with us and make donations. Over the years some of the young people we have helped have gone on to become volunteers with us and even work for us too.

Who We Help

The young people we help are aged 16 – 25 and come from various backgrounds. There are many reasons why they may find themselves threatened with homelessness. These include debts, domestic violence, to relationship or family breakdown.

Homelessness is not just about being out on the streets, many young people will be sofa surfing, sharing accommodation with friends and family. When young people do come to KEY, they are often extremely vulnerable and in a state of crisis.

What We Do

KEY provides a range of practical activities and services delivered around 2 work steams:

Helping prevent homelessness:

• Offering advice and guidance
• Mediating between young people and their parents.
• Peer education involving ex homeless young people going into schools to talk about their experiences.

Supporting young people with independent living

• Giving out emergency food packs
• 2 designated support officers for young people managing their first tenancy
• Flavia House – Shared supported accommodation for up to 5 young people
• Strickland House – Shared supported accommodation for up to 4 young people
• Workshops on cooking healthy meals on a low budget, managing money.
• Advice on find employment and training.

A Short History


Shocked by the death of a homeless man sleeping in South Shields town centre, representatives from South Tyneside Churches Together come together to see what they can do to make sure it doesn’t happen again and KEY is born. Original members included Evelyn Winship, Dorothy Clarke, Derek Rosamond and Bernadette Askins.

1993 – 2001

For the next few years KEY is run entirely by volunteers helping and supporting vulnerable young people experiencing homelessness and hardship. The first service delivered is the collection and distribution of food parcels to homeless young people.


KEY employs its first staff and rents an office base at St Bede’s Church in South Shields. Project Manager – David Cross oversees a Tenant Support Worker and an Administration Worker.


We move to a new office at TEDCO Business Park in Jarrow. A mediation and mentoring worker is appointed.


Schools and local churches begin collecting food for emergency food packs from local schools and churches as part of Harvest Festival celebrations


David Cross moves on and is replaced by Jean Burnside as Chief Officer.


Two Prevention of Homelessness Workers are employed. We start running Peer Education Workshops in schools. To support Poverty and Homelessness Week – board members and staff give talks in local schools.


We open our first supported accommodation project for young people at Flavia – a shared house with 5 bedrooms. The property is leased from the Diocese of Durham and managed by Three Rivers Housing Association with KEY providing support.  Flavia proves to be a great success, popular with young people and respected by neighbours.


KEY moves to new premises at the St Mary’s Centre, Tyne Dock.  Our office suite has training facilities, kitchen and interview rooms. It enables KEY to meet the growing demand of clients and our expanding team of workers and volunteers.


We pass a Quality Assessment Framework and achieve mainly Level ‘A’ scores, endorsing KEY’s reputation for delivering high quality services.


We become part of a Consortium with Depaul UK and Places for People Housing Association to provide integrated pathways for young people accessing homelessness services across South Tyneside.


We open our first young persons hub – a drop in for young people and families at the St Mary Centre.   Demand for our emergency food support packs increases by over 100% as austerity and public expenditure cuts begin to bite. Glenn – a young volunteer with KEY is nominated for Volunteer of the Year Award at the North East Youth Work Awards.


After a two year fundraising appeal, we buy a property to provide supported accommodation. It requires extensive refurbishment. KEY is awarded a £150,000 grant from the Northern Rock Foundation to provide more move-on accommodation. Revamped website launched.


Strickland House – a supported accommodation project for 4 young people is opened. It’s located on the Lawe Top area in South Shields. Our office base moves from St Mary’s to the first floor above the Salvation Army Hall in South Shields. Eric Hardisty our longest serving employee retires after 11 years.


KEY opens 4 move on flats leased from the Council. We move into permanent new offices on the Lawe Top in South Shields. Jean Burnside KEY’s Chief Executive retires after 10 years service. Ross Allen is appointed as Executive Lead.


KEY celebrates 25 years since it was set up. We mark this event by holding 25 events throughout the year.