There’s a lot of young people who have nowhere to go, and it’s just heartbreaking
I started offering Nightstop in July last year. I did that for a short while, but then decided that Supported Lodgings would suit me better – I found it hard asking a young person to leave the house at 8am when I was going to work.
My motivation came partly from the fact that I’ve got a room that lies empty, partly because of my faith – I’m a Christian and I feel very much my role is caring for people – and partly because of the work I’d done previously with Town Pastors. Over the years I’d been involved with the group, the number of homeless people increased hugely and there were more and more young people. There was a small group of young people, aged between around 16 to 20, who were just walking around at night until it got light. Either they didn’t want to go back home or home wasn’t a good place to go back to. It became apparent there is a massive need.
So far, my experience of hosting has been really good. The young person I’ve got staying has settled in gradually. When he was first here, he was out a good bit of the time. Slowly but surely he’s now spending more time in the house. After about a month of being here, he actually unpacked his stuff. Then recently I overheard him talking on the phone and saying ‘I’m at home now’ which is nice.
He’s beginning to get more talkative, he doesn’t hide in his room quite as much. And in the last few weeks he’s told me little bits about his family history. He’s had a horrible childhood, but he doesn’t look on it like that. His attitude is it doesn’t matter how bad it is, there’s something good can come out of it.
I have no idea what I’d have done if I was homeless at that age. It’s hard to get your head around having to knock on a stranger’s door at 16 or 17, essentially saying ‘I want somewhere to live’. I’ve never even been close to that situation, and even then if everything went belly up here, I could go back home to mum and dad, and my old room would be there. This lad has no family to fall back on.
The actual hosting is quite easy; the frustration is when you see choices being made by a young person that are not beneficial and knowing when and when not to say something. The support I get from SASH is very good indeed. It helps knowing that there is someone on the end of the phone should you need it. I encourage other people to give it a go. They just need to let go of any preconceptions. Don’t judge anyone as far as that’s possible, and sit back and enjoy the ride.
Without SASH these young people would be surfing sofas, or in hostels or ending up on the streets. There’s a lot more young people than people realise that have got nowhere to go, and it’s just heart-breaking.