A helping hand for Norfolk's homeless
A shop doorway would not be where most people would choose to bed down for the night, but for too many youngsters in Norwich there is no alternative.Now a charity which helps homeless teenagers is calling for more people to provide a meal and a bed to save them from freezing on the pavement.
The Nightstop service, which was set up two years ago this month, currently has 23 places for people to stay with families who have agreed to help out, but more volunteers are needed to stop vulnerable teenagers from having to sleep rough.
The scheme is organised by YMCA Norfolk and over the past two years has helped hundreds of youngsters aged between 15 and 25 who have left or been excluded from their family homes.
Hosts provide emergency lodgings with a volunteer family for up to three nights, and in return, the volunteers receive agreed expenses, training and 24 hour support.
Where possible, family mediation is used to try to reconcile the young person with their parents, but if this fails, the YMCA will try to find them other accommodation.
One city youngster who has used the service, 20-year-old Michael Fenwick, said: “I had been living on the streets for about two weeks and I didn't know what to do. It was cold and scary - you are just lying there and people come up and ask you for drugs and needles. I'm not into any of that and it's not what you need.
“I hadn't heard of Nightstop before but it helped a lot, the families made me feel very welcome. I stayed with two support families for the weekend before I moved into the YMCA.
“Me and my mum fell out and our relationship broke down, but moving into a family's home helped me out. They gave me dinner and were really genuinely nice people. Now I'm back on track - I'm doing a YMCA team building course which will help me get into work.”
Another who was helped out is Briony Lovett, 16, who now lives at her grandparents' house in Long Stratton, and has rebuilt her relationship with her mother thanks to the service. She has also managed to get a full time job in a fast-food restaurant.
She said: “I had just been sleeping on sofas at my mates houses. I stayed with a couple and also a lady in her flat - she gave me lots of advice as she had been in a similar situation herself. It gave me a lot of thinking time and gave me time to decide what to do. It did help me out an awful lot. It helped me find a job, and I probably wouldn't have done that for myself.”
Another success story is that of 18-year-old Krista Bloom, who said: “I had been kicked out of my mum's house and had nowhere to go for shelter, but Nightstop sorted it out really quickly - they kept phoning me to let me know I hadn't been left out in the cold and that they were finding me somewhere. Now I've got my own bungalow in Thorpe St Andrew and I work in social care in residential homes.”
To find out more about helping a young person and becoming a host, contact the Greater Norwich Nightstop Project Worker Mark Ash on 07894 935778, the YMCA on 01603 620269 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Pictured above is project worker Steve Ginn (centre) with Briony Lovett and Michael Fenwick.
Article and picture courtesy of www.eveningnews24.co.uk