Keeping young people safe when they can’t go home
One Nightstop Coordinator Emma James tells us about her work on the emergency accommodation referral line.
“The first part of the day is picking up any Nightstop issues from last night, calling hosts to see how things went, to thank them for having the young person and give them time to discuss any concerns. They get to see a different side to the young person from the referrers, so they can give us useful feedback, for example if the young person has told them a bit more about their situation or some of their worries.
Then we’ll catch up with referrers to see if the young people that were in Nightstop last night need it again tonight. A lot of the day is spent looking for someone to carry on Nightstopping those young people who have been in already. We might have to find a new host for them, which can involve lots of conversations, waiting for calls to be returned or emails back and forth. Then it’s the travel arrangements so that the young person knows where they are going. In some areas it’s a bit more rural and it can get quite complicated. Occasionally the young person might not have a phone, or it’s run out of charge, so that adds more complications.
A referral might come in at 4pm, when the young person realises they don’t know where they’re going to go
Throughout the day we also pick up the new referrals that are coming in – they could come in at 10am, but they might come at 4pm because that’s suddenly when the young person realises they don’t know where they will be staying tonight.
Mostly, it’s because of a family breakdown
Typically the young people are using Nightstop because of some kind of family breakdown. Perhaps the relationship has not been right for a while and things have come to a head. Others might have been living with a partner and their relationship has broken down. We had a young person recently who was asked to leave because the family were struggling to accept their change in gender. Another one was fleeing an abusive relationship from their partner.
We have to try and get enough information about that young person to make a judgement as to whether Nightstop is the right place for them. We do a police check to make sure there are no worrying convictions, then we try to find a host for them.
For younger ones, the idea of going to stay with a stranger can be really scary
Some young people just use Nightstop for one night, then things get resolved. Others might use it for three or four nights, or longer. For younger ones, the idea of going to stay with a stranger can be really scary and they can’t get over that fear. But if they do go and stay, they find that it’s really nice, they feel welcomed and they get a bit more relaxed about it.
It really touches a lot of them that there is somebody that cares enough to open up their home and have a stranger stay
Nightstop is different from all the other services because of the volunteers. The young people get that when they go into Nightstop they are staying with people who care about them and who are doing this out of kindness. It really touches a lot of them that there is somebody that cares enough about them to open up their home and have a stranger stay.
He’d never experienced what it was like to be in a house where there isn’t conflict
For some it is quite life changing. We had one young person who only stayed one night and he went back home, but his feedback was how lovely it was to be with people who cared about each other and spoke to each other in a reasonable, calm way. He’d never experienced what it was like to be in a house where there isn’t conflict.
Trying to get it all wrapped up by 5pm can be a challenge
It can get quite hectic. You might be taking a new referral, waiting for a call back about someone else and at the same time the police are trying to get hold of you with the result of the PNC check. Trying to get it all wrapped up by 5pm can be a challenge. But come 5.30 it’s time to divert the phone to our on-call service. We do that on a rota basis, so someone is on hand to take referrals up until 9pm.”