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Page last updated at 10:22 GMT, Thursday, 12 August 2010 11:22 UK
Scheme for young homeless people begins in Sedgemoor
Stacey Quinan - was made homeless at 17
Stacey was made homeless at 17 and had to be housed in a B and B

A scheme aiming to help young homeless people aged 16 to 25 has begun in Sedgemoor.

Nightstop is run by the YMCA and the district council for young people who are made homeless at short notice and need a room for the night.

It involves getting volunteers to open their homes to give young people food, accommodation and support for a night.

The organisers hope Nightstop will prevent young people from ending up on the streets in a vulnerable situation.

'Family environment'

There's the personal satisfaction of helping somebody, seeing young people moving on to a better housing situation.
Liz Pardoe, YMCA

Over the past four to five years, homelessness has fallen, but according to the Somerset Youth Housing Forum (SYHF), housing young people is the most problematic.

Jerry Milton, chair of SYHC said: "It is much more difficult to find solutions for young people when they become homeless than it is for a family who may be able to move into private rented accommodation.

"When a 16-year-old becomes homeless , it's incredibly difficult to find solutions even though the numbers aren't huge.

"Last year there were over 300 young people who found themselves homeless throughout Somerset and many of those would have that experience of going into short term hostel or B&B accommodation."

He also said in recent months, more young people had come forward to ask the council for help, because their parents were struggling to house them.

"We don't routinely place 16 and 17 year olds in B&B accommodation but if a youngster presents late in the day, we do have to place them in a Bed and Breakfast for a short period of time."

It is hoped through the Nightstop scheme these youngsters are given the chance to be in a family environment, which is considered a better solution than putting them into temporary accommodation..

Stacey Quinan, 17, became homeless earlier this year and found herself in this situation.

"It was horrible, it was full of people who had just come out of prison, it was really hard because I had to buy my own food and there wasn't a fridge or a cooker so you had to buy things which could stay in a carrier bag, it's not exactly healthy."

'Friendly and supportive'

Now the scheme organisers are appealing to people to come forward as volunteers who are willing to put a young person up for the night.

Project co-ordinator, Liz Pardoe from the YMCA said: "We are going to have hosts who are going to put them in a safe, supportive environment for the evening, in their homes, providing an evening meal, breakfast the next day, access to wash facilities and just being friendly and supportive.

"While the young person is with Nightstop, we'll then work with them to support them in finding them alternative, longer term housing options."

The Nightstop scheme is already running in other parts of the UK.

"We would want to meet with them to discuss any questions they have and if someone does want to go ahead we would need to do a home visit just to make sure there would be a room that could be solely used by a young person and see who else is in the household.

"We need to do CRB checks on the host and any adults living in the house, get references in, do training for the hosts, it could take six to eight weeks to go through this process."

Hosts will be paid expenses for putting up young people, but the YMCA hopes they will get a sense of personal satisfaction as well.

"There's the personal satisfaction of helping somebody, seeing young people moving on to a better housing situation.

"If a young person doesn't have a house to live in or a home there's so many other things they cannot do, it's quite hard to hold a job down or go to college when you're homeless."

If you are interested in becoming a volunteer for the scheme, please contact Sedgemoor District Council's HOME project scheme or YMCA in Bridgwater.

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