Merely a few steps away from becoming homeless – a risk not to be underestimated

Did you know that you are potentially only a few steps away from being homeless and on the streets?

It seems hard to believe, but it is something that becomes a reality for so many people every year; most of them never see it coming.

Gary Mitchell, who chairs the Paignton-based charity New Footings Ministries, which runs a homeless hostel for eleven weeks every year, has seen it all.

“There are three stages to homelessness,” he said when I interviewed him recently for the Good Morning South Devon Volunteer Show, which goes out every Tuesday from 10 am to 1pm on Riviera FM.

“The first is losing your job, the second is losing your home because you’ve got a mortgage to pay or can’t afford the rent, the next step is being out on the street.

“There is no catch-all for this and there’s a really wide range of reasons as to why people end up homeless,” he added.

So far this year, the hostel has been overnight home to 89 different individuals, which interestingly is way higher than the official estimated homelessness figure for Torbay, and that will likely rise as we move into another cold spell.

Reasons for being homeless are many and complex and some in society have a cruelly negative view of those that find themselves on the street, often through no fault of their own.

No matter what your views, people do not choose to become addicted to gambling, drugs or alcohol, nor do they seek out abusive relationships or choose to fall out irrevocably with family and friends.

People who have served in the armed forces did not predict when they signed up that what they would witness would leave them with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which prevents them from living a ‘normal’ life – holding down a job and maintaining a home.

Gary and his incredible group of volunteers have come across individuals suffering all of the above as they endeavour to give those who want it a break and a chance to step back into the mainstream.

New Footings Ministries’ volunteers provide a wide range of essential tasks from cooking and washing up to doing the laundry, helping with paperwork or simply sitting and having a chat and as with most charities in the Bay, they need more of them. If you are interested or want to know more email: [email protected]

Homelessness can strike at any stage of life and the YMCA South Devon is on hand to support younger people who are in danger of being on the streets or in unsuitable accommodation through their Nightstop project.

Nightstop provides safe and secure accommodation for young people aged 16 – 25 who are at risk of being homeless. Young people stay with volunteer hosts, who will give them their own room, evening meal and breakfast, washing facilities, clothes wash and dry, and someone to talk to or simply a quiet place to have some headspace.

Once again this year, brave souls from across Torbay are being challenged to endure freezing Winter temperatures to sleep under the stars to raise money for young homeless people.

It is hoped that dozens of people will bed down on outdoor tennis courts for the night to raise funds. Called the Sleep Easy, YMCA’s across the country are challenging their local residents to sleep anywhere but their own beds for one night only on Friday, March 22nd, but most of the efforts locally are being concentrated on a sleep out in Goodrington.

Since it launched in December 2021, Nightstop South Devon has provided hundreds of safe nights and as a result, dozens of young people are now in supported living or are in a better position with housing. Otherwise, they would have been either homeless or sofa surfing.

If you can face a night in the open then you can register via the website at Each year, the sleep-out raises thousands of pounds for this sadly much-needed service.

It isn’t easy, I did it back in 2022 and it was an uncomfortable, cold and miserable night, but for me, it was just one night, others face the same or worse every night of the year.

If you want your charity or your volunteers to be featured on the Tuesday radio show, get in touch with me, [email protected]. I look forward to hearing from you.