Just because we’ve seen almost no homeless people sleeping rough during lockdown, doesn’t mean that the situation has gone away. If anything, it’s even more acute. The numbers of young homeless people between the ages of 16 and 25 may be about to spike. Many are still at school or college, or in work. Being homeless is definitely not in their game plan.
Gloucestershire Nightstop has been placing young people for overnight stays in safe family homes for over thirty years. It can seem a big ask; finding volunteers willing and trusting enough to open their homes for a night to these young people. But before lockdown there were 35 such host families across the county. That number has shrunk to just 9 households as many are still shielding or socially distancing and the need to find additional host families and homes is critical.
All Nightstop young people are vetted before they are referred, so hosts can be sure they are not putting themselves or their family at risk in any way. Our volunteers come from all backgrounds and all ages. Some are retired, some still have children at home, some are single.
As a Nightstop host, you choose how much or how little you are willing to host – most young people are placed for a few nights, but some experienced hosts are happy to extend to a few weeks. When they volunteer, they’ll receive full training regarding safeguarding, what to do and expect, and on staying safe.
Every young person receives an evening meal, their own room and the chance to wash – Nightstop pays expenses and provides toiletries and any spare clothing that they might need. For these vulnerable young adults this is, literally, a lifeline.
In order to sustain the service, we need to start a Host Recruitment Campaign, with a particular focus on diversifying our host profile, which will involve creating links within the communities of Gloucestershire. These hosts will need comprehensive training and induction, in terms of the needs of our young people and safeguarding as well as the use of PPE.
We have set ourselves a target of 19 new hosts between now and the first quarter of 2021, with the possibility of more of our current hosts coming back on board over that period, this creates a much more positive option in terms of service delivery and quality, taking account of expected and unexpected events affecting the availability of a host.
Your contribution will cover the costs of marketing, recruitment and training to put these new volunteer hosts in place.