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Nightstop UK - could you open your home? - February 2012

Rev Paul Rogers, a host volunteer with Depaul UK Nightstop, explains how your spare bedroom could help a young homeless person

It's not often that you get paid for a good deed, but this is exactly what Depaul UK’s Nightstop and Supported Lodgings London are willing to do.

If you are able to offer your spare bedroom to a homeless young person in an emergency (Nightstop), they will give you £15 per night and £120 per week if you can offer longer term lodgings (Supported Lodgings).

Sounds scary, I know. But those who approach Depaul UK Nightstop and Supported Lodgings London are vulnerable 16 to 25-year-olds who find themselves with nowhere to sleep.

Perhaps Mum has a new boyfriend who has kicked them out, or they are leaving care and are not yet ready to live independently. Whatever the reason, they find themselves homeless.

These young people have refused to turn to theft and violence and instead have gone looking for help.

For the past year my wife and I have been volunteer hosts with Nightstop. It began as a project of Greenwich Youth For Christ 10 years ago but has now expanded over London (and worldwide) through the youth charity Depaul.

Depaul UK believes that the best place for a young person to get back on their feet is in the home of a normal yet exceptional person from their local community. Having seen this in action, I agree with them.

All young people are risk assessed and carefully matched with the right household.

The number of young people experiencing homelessness each year in the UK has risen from 75,000 in 2008 to 80,000 in 2011. To put this in perspective, the UK’s young homeless could fill the London Olympic Stadium. And every hour nine young people experience homelessness in the UK – that’s one every seven minutes.

My family has met many great young people through Depaul UK Nightstop. Our two boys now argue over whose turn it is to come with me to the station to meet them!

All those we have hosted have been polite and courteous and overwhelmingly thankful that someone has cared enough to help.

When we were interviewed by BBC London Tonight recently, we were asked about the risk of opening our home to strangers. We are aware of that risk, but understand the much greater risk of forgetting our responsibility to those in society who are asking for help.

Imagine how the young person must feel as they walk up to our front door dependent on the mercy of a stranger.

We know what we are doing makes a difference. I remember one young lady coming back downstairs after having had a bath. She said that in the bath she found herself crying her eyes out at how her life had suddenly fallen apart.

Then she stopped as she realised that she was lying in a stranger’s bath – someone who actually cared enough to open their home to someone they didn’t know. That meant the world to her.

Two other young people said this: “I would have been on the streets, it was a life-saver” and “I felt comfortable and safe and was able to restore some of my life from before”.

Other hosts take in a young person as a lodger through Depaul UK’s Supported Lodgings scheme, currently only available in London and North Tyneside.

Often when the young person arrives they are shy and lack independent living skills, but with the host’s support and role-modelling they are able to grow into competent and confident young adults.

Having a young person come to stay long-term gives the hosts the opportunity to build a lasting relationship with them. Some go on to attend their guests’ graduations and stay lifelong friends.

As one host said: “I used to have a room gathering dust and now I have a godson and a friend. What could be better?”

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