Sherica Spence, 28, and Natasha Boxill, 32, are the driving forces behind Skye Alexandra House, a house for teenage girls.
Passionate about helping the self-development of young vulnerable girls and preparing them for adulthood, the two Croydon women have transformed an abandoned house in South Norwood into a semi-independent living home for girls aged 16-18. The girls living in Skye Alexandra House will be referred by Croydon Social Services, but do not have to fit certain criteria. They may have experienced abuse, dysfunctional backgrounds, been caught up in gangs or just got out from prison.
The home, which opened officially in the end of June (with the presence of Mayor of Croydon, Manju Shahul-Hameed), will welcome their first four girls in August.
Boxill observes the girls coming to Skye Alexandra House often will have some relation to gangs. “It often goes hand in hand. That’s why we want to do an early intervention: to give them a feeling of self-value and belonging here, so they do not feel the need to seek belonging in gangs,” said Boxill.
Offering 24-hour-a-day care, the women’s main objective is to offer more than just a roof to those who come through their door. The girls will obtain therapeutic, practical and physical support services, which include: personal development, well-being workshops, employability workshops and cooking classes.
“Whether they are caught up in gangs or struggling with other issues, girls are often overlooked and need more positive role models. Our goal is to help them build up themselves in the house and come out as stronger persons,” said Spence.
The idea behind Skye Alexandra House came when Spence, a qualified mentor, lived in a flat within a house which also had a semi-independent home on the second floor. As she got close to the girls living in the house, Spence realised they were not properly taken cared of and was concerned they were leaving the house not having learnt how to look after themselves.
Spence said: “That was when I realised that I wanted to open a safe haven for girls to provide them with the life skills they would need when leaving at 18.”
When she met Boxhill, the pair realised shared a vision and that’s how Skye Alexandra House was born. The two women used each other’s expertise, as well as personal experience to start the project in November last year.
Spence and Boxill both believe they would have benefited from the services they are now offering girls in the house when they were younger.
“When I was 17, I lived in a hostel and got pregnant. There was no practical support, literally just a roof over my head,” said Boxill. “Now I want to make real difference to other girls’ lives, help to build their self-esteem and provide them with a positive environment.”