WITH benefits being cut, young people struggling to find work and families cracking under the strain of keeping their heads above water financially, the problem of youth homelessness becomes more serious by the day.
To help counteract the problem, The Hinge Centre, on Field Road, Bridlington, teamed up with SASH (Safe and Sound Homes) in York to launch the Nightstop project.
This offers young people aged between 16 and 24, who are experiencing a traumatic time, a welcoming and safe place to stay in a home environment. The partnership recently secured £199,097 as part of the second round of funding from the ‘Homeless Transition’ fund to launch the scheme.
Now, supported by fully trained host volunteers, emergency accommodation is now available immediately to those who have been on the streets for at least one night, or are faced with homelessness due to personal crisis.
Reporter Mike Brown spoke to the first young person who has been helped as part of the scheme, a 19-year-old man who has asked not to be identified.
‘HOMELESS’ might not be the first word you would use to describe the positive, smartly dressed, well spoken young man sitting in the Hinge Centre, but after having problems at his family home, he found himself out on the street.
“We had a bit of a family breakdown and I was kicked out of the house because I didn’t have a job, basically,” said the 19-year-old, who lives in Bridlington and went to school in the town.
“I went from having a home to being homeless just like that really, I had no money, nothing.
“I came to the Hinge Centre that day. I am 19 so I don’t qualify as vulnerable by the council. Obviously I’m not a young mum, so I had nowhere else to go. It’s a gap in the system.
“I would have been on the streets. It’s up to people to find their own accommodation, but you are in a crisis situation and it is not planned.
“I was panicking. I’ve never been on the streets before. I was all ready to have a look around at where I could sleep. I was thinking I would go down to the sea front and get under a shelter for the night.”
Without an address, and with no facilities to use a phone or the internet, it becomes especially difficult for those who find themselves homeless to find work, or arrange benefits.
“When I came to the Hinge, I got a place to stay that night.
“I really don’t want to think about what would have happened if I hadn’t. I was relieved that they could help.
“It would have been difficult. Just having a place to sleep, to get washed, and to have a meal. It is reassuring, and it makes such a difference.”
During the day, he leaves the Nightstop property and comes to the Hinge Centre where he is able to use computers and the telephone to find permanent accommodation, benefit and employment help.
“I did not expect as much from the hosts as I have had. I’ve been made to feel like I was at home. I had a really nice evening meal, and I could get a shower and feel normal.
“I’ve managed to sort out an interview because I can use the Hinge as a base.
“Without this, it would have just been a downward spiral. There’s nothing else I can say, it’s overwhelming. It’s an all in one service, it helps you with everything.”
Eve Laird, supported lodgings co-ordinator at the Hinge Centre, said: “We have partnered with SASH to find hosts to offer a bed, a meal and somewhere to get washed.
“There will never be a shortage of young people who are in trouble, who need the service, but there is a shortage of space for them. So we would encourage anyone who can help to get in touch. Everyone that takes part is trained.”
The scheme offers emergency shelter for young people between 16 and 24 years old, a category not usually dealt with as vulnerable by council housing departments.
“There is a gap in the system, definitely. With finances the way they are, benefits are getting cut everywhere.
“Young people don’t get EMA to go to college anymore, student fees have gone right up, and parents are losing their benefits and it is putting a huge strain on families.
“This age group is the most at risk and it is a worry. There is no financial incentive for parents to keep older children at home.
“Often, these young people have never been in this situation before and if people are just left on the streets, other problems can develop. That is why we are glad we can offer the support.”
A direct emergency contact line, on 07512 887959, has been set up for the general public to use within the East Riding if they see or think someone is homeless. A message can be left at any time reporting the location and time, and this will be followed up by a member of the team at the Hinge Centre.
The project is also still looking for ‘host volunteers’ who may be able to provide an emergency bed.
Anyone interested in becoming a host can call Adele Coupe at SASH on 01904 652043, or email firstname.lastname@example.org