Step Out with YMCA DownsLink and Help Prevent Youth Homelessness in Sussex and Surrey

Step Out with YMCA DownsLink and Help Prevent Youth Homelessness in Sussex and Surrey

It’s back! On Saturday 16th July you can take part in the YMCA DownsLink Challenge, a 17.5 mile sponsored walk along the beautiful Downs Link Pathway, knowing every step will help change young lives.

Last year more than 150 people stepped out to raise money for YMCA DownsLink Group, the South East’s leading charity in preventing youth homelessness and supporting young people in crisis. Comedian, Eddie Izzard, and Olympian, Sally Gunnell, encouraged people to sign up which helped the inaugural YMCA DownsLink Challenge to raise £16,000 which went towards providing a safe place to live for over 750 local young people, every night of the year. Money also went towards enabling young people to develop the skills needed to live independently when ready. To build on the success of last year, the charity has set an ambitious target for this year’s event and are aiming to sign up 500 participants and raise £30,000 to help fund its vital services.

The Downs Link Pathway is a disused railway line which links Surrey to Sussex (Guildford to Shoreham by Sea) is how YMCA DownsLink Group got its name. The charity is the largest provider of youth services in Sussex and Surrey and supports over 6,000 vulnerable young people and their families every year. Although best known for its work to prevent youth homelessness by providing supported housing to young people in need, the charity also provides a range of advice, support and counselling services to vulnerable young people in crisis.  In the past two years the charity has seen around a 50% increase in the number of young people reaching out for its support, so fundraising events, like the DownsLink Challenge, have never been more important.

Chas Walker, CEO YMCA DownsLink Group, explains how fundraised income will support the charity’s work this year:

“The past two years have been tough for everyone, but for many young people, already on the margins of society, it has been devastating. Young people, particularly those in low paid or gig economy jobs, were already feeling the economic impact of the pandemic, but coupled with the current cost of living crisis, many are struggling to afford the basics, such as food & rent.  We are struggling to cope with the numbers of young people coming to us in need of housing, despite increasing our provision in places such as Hastings. And, most worryingly, we’ve seen a huge increase in the severity of mental health issues and poor emotional welling in both our young residents, and those coming to access help at our Youth Advice Centres (YAC). Money raised by events such as YMCA DownsLink Challenge, will go towards sustaining and increasing our provision for those local young people most in need.”

Participants can choose whether to walk or run the 17.5 miles from Horsham to Shoreham, or for anyone feeling super fit, or wanting a bigger challenge, there is an option to do the full 36 miles from Guildford to Shoreham. Everyone is being asked to raise a minimum of £75 and anyone raising over £150 will be entered into a prize draw to win a hamper of ‘goodies’.

For anyone unable to join on the day or wanting to take on a challenge a bit closer to home, there is also the option to do a challenge in your own area and in your own time. Alternative routes, throughout Sussex (East Sussex / West Sussex / Brighton & Hove and Guildford) are provided on YMCA DownsLink’s website.

Registration is just £20 which covers the cost of putting on the event and includes a branded T shirt and finisher’s medal.

To sign up or for more information, visit: