A new service aimed at protecting young homeless people is being launched in Torbay, providing emergency overnight accommodation.
Until now, there has been no bespoke emergency system for young people, and they have been forced either into B&B’s, or sofa-surfing on friend’s couches instead, until their needs can be assessed, and a better solution found.
But Nightstop, based at the YMCA South Devon in Paignton, aims to get these young people (aged between 16 and 25 years) into a safe, caring environment, in the homes of trained volunteers.
Nightstop already runs in 30 towns and cities across the UK, but it is a first for Torbay, where young homelessness has become an urgent and increasingly severe problem.
Homelessness amongst young people can be triggered by a variety of issues, from short-term family arguments, to a breakdown of relationships leading to a long-term shift in circumstances. Christmas can also be a crunch-time for many, as families are thrown together.
But the aim of Nightstop, which launches in the Bay on Tuesday (December 14th), is simple: to react quickly to provide a private spare room in a family home, a hot meal, a shower, laundry facilities, and a listening ear.
So far, six households in and around Torbay have thrown open their doors to the scheme, having gone through a stringent vetting programme, and it is hoped that the average stay will be relatively short until a longer-term solution can be found.
One such host couple, who are awaiting their first placement with Nightstop is Jo and Roger Palfrey from Paignton, who decided to train as hosts after their youngest of two daughters left home.
“We are lucky we have a nice home and we now have spare rooms, which means we can help, and why wouldn’t you?” said Roger, a planning manager for a technical manufacturing company in Torquay.
Jo added: “We thought it would be nice to help other people and Nightstop helps young people when they need it most.”
All hosts are fully-trained, and given 24-hour support throughout the process, they are also given the opportunity to say no, if they want to, “But,” said 55-year-old Jo, “You don’t know how that one night might change things.”
“It is often the smallest of things that make all the difference, and being there for young people when they need it most, is a good start.”
Last year, Torbay Council Housing Options team and Children’s Services provided temporary accommodation for 133 young people between the ages of 16 and 25, who found themselves homeless, and Nightstop aims to fill the gap between first becoming homeless and a suitable solution being found.
For Maria Goodwin, CEO of YMCA Devon, it is the culmination of a long-held ambition: “It has been a passion of mine for a long time to be able to provide this service, so I am really pleased that we are able to work collaboratively with Torbay Council, to ensure that longer-term solutions are found.”
A Torbay Council spokesperson said: “Torbay Local Authority has worked with YMCA South Devon for over 10 years, and have found the charity to be a first-class organisation supporting disadvantaged young people and their families. We are very pleased to be working in partnership with them on the Nightstop project, and fully endorse the organisation in its delivery of services in Torbay.”
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