MANY IN TORBAY STILL NEED A ROOF OVER THEIR HEADS

By David Gledhill, Marketing & Communications Lead

 

HOMELESSNESS is something that the majority of us cannot begin to imagine, thank goodness, but for far too many, it is a reality.

Years ago, the director of a homeless hostel in Bath said something that has resonated with me ever since – nearly all of us are just a few wage packets away from being on the streets.

Think about it: you lose your job and with it your whole income, but the bills still keep coming, Energy bills, mortgage, car payments, credit cards and loans, to name but a few.

Within weeks you are in trouble and all too soon, the mortgage company are foreclosing on the one thing you need above all others, the roof over you and your family’s heads.

The lucky ones will go into social housing, but as we all know, there is a shortage of accommodation available, and if the pressures of the financial meltdown have led to a relationship breakdown, then those that find themselves suddenly single are the least likely to be prioritised.

There are many reasons for homelessness, not least mental health issues, addictions, post-traumatic stress disorder and the one that we all fear, plain bad luck, the perfect storm that brings us to our knees.

Agencies across the Bay work alongside statutory services to do great work; without them, many more would be sleeping on benches and doorways at the mercy of the dark night sky.

Until relatively recently, young people in Torbay only had stark choices when circumstances, often beyond their control, meant that they were forced out of their homes.

Many chose to sofa surf, rather than seek hostel accommodation and others were forced onto the streets, regardless of the weather. Young, vulnerable and desperate.

But in December 2021 the YMCA South Devon launched Nightstop, since then it has provided a total of 292 safe nights in the homes of volunteer hosts who throw open their doors to provide somewhere warm and safe until other arrangements can be made.

As a result, 37 young people aged between 16 and 25 years have been helped, 29 of whom are now in supported living or are in a better position with housing – all thanks to the Nightstop project and its dedicated volunteers.

The reasons for young people becoming homeless are complex and numerous but generally, revolve around an unsustainable home life.

Recently one 21-year-old was found wandering the streets of Torbay at night. It turns out he had been taken into care at a young age. He lived with his adoptive family up until the age of 16 when he left due to being abused. He was moved to live out of area, where he became involved in the running of drugs and taking them.

He stayed with different hosts, a big ask of a young person who already has so much more going on. But the good news is that he has since moved onto supported living that is out of the area.

Sadly, his story is by no means unique.

Nightstop relies in part on the generosity of supporters, and once again, hardy souls are being challenged to sleep out under the Winter night time sky to raise money to help keep young homeless people off the streets.

The annual Sleep Easy challenge takes place this year on March 10th at the YMCA South Devon in Dartmouth Road, Paignton, when everyone is invited to sleep outside. All night.

Using the strapline ‘Sleep out, so others don’t have to’, Sleep Easy, despite the name, can be tough, but it can also be fun, particularly when a group of friends challenge each other to go through it together.

It can be a big ask; I remember only too well the occasion last year when I accepted the challenge and spent the night in the rain and cold and recall describing it to anyone who cared to ask about it afterwards in two words ‘bloody miserable.’

But anything I had to endure was eased by the knowledge it was only one night and by doing it, I raised just short of £1,000 for a great cause.

Are you up for the challenge? Even better, challenge your friends to join you. For more information about Sleep Easy and to register, go to the YMCA website https://www.ymcasouthdevon.org.uk/sleep-easy.html or call 01803 551578

Homeless person photo courtesy of Freepik.com

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