Host Jude shared her story with the Huffington Post, to encourage others to volunteer. She says she’s never felt unsafe, because she trusts the judgement of Nightstop staff members who carry out checks and vetting.
Up and down the country people are looking for ways to solve our homelessness crisis. On Facebook groups we share our heartbreak at what we see on the streets and try to think of ways that we can make a difference in such a huge and ongoing social crisis. I’ve met a mother evicted (unlawfully) from her rental accommodation, leaving with a suitcase in one hand and her tiny baby in the other. I’ve met rough sleepers through another charity who come in to a drop-in during the day for warmth, a shower and a meal.
I met a girl called who used to sofa surf at friends’ houses, and who had slept in a cupboard beneath the stairs for want of anywhere better. Another young person left work due to extreme stress and then, when his relationship ended, spent 3 months sleeping in a garage. He took me to see that garage for myself. Thankfully, most of the people I have met who’ve experienced homelessness have, with the support of incredible charities been helped to move on to places of their own.
Why I host
I started hosting nine months ago – utilising my spare room to host young women aged between 16 and 25 who are experiencing homelessness. All of the women I’ve hosted have been referred to the charity and have references; people experiencing more complex problems which might pose more of a risk are referred to other agencies.
Alongside these charities there are many individuals who want to play a part in making things easier for people in crisis.
When the problem is so big and the issues around homelessness so complex and seemingly impossible to tackle, where do you start?
Is being a Nightstop host dangerous?
I host young people through Nightstop, and as a host I have been asked on many occasions whether I feel nervous about hosting young people or worried that one of them will steal from me.
The truthful answer is no! At no point have I felt unsafe and I have never thought about having my possessions taken. Far from it. All of the young people I have met have been charming and respectful.
I completely trust the staff at Nightstop to do their checks on my guests so that I can welcome them with open arms.
Before a young person is placed with me, staff at Nightstop will have carried out a risk-assessment and run checks on the young person. And of course, I’ve been checked out too. Before I was able to start hosting, staff ran a DBS check on me, visited my home and took up references.
Why do young people use Nightstop?
Some of the issues the young women I host have faced include family breakup, fleeing gang exploitation, evictions by landlords who want to sell up or put up the rent in the accommodation my guests live in and even live-in landlords expecting sexual favours. I’ve hosted a girl who used to walk the streets at night after her evening job, just so she didn’t have to go back to her family home.
I’m lucky that I am able to host. I grew up in a house where my parents had bed and breakfast guests when my siblings left home. I’m also an Airbnb host, to supplement my freelance income, so I’m used to having strangers come to stay.
By volunteering for Nightstop I have met incredible women who have hopes and dreams and ambitions.
From being a doctor to going into journalism and even being a dentist, the young people I host have lofty career ambitions just like anyone else their age. I’m there to be a listening ear and to reassure my guests that Nightstop will support them to find a long-term solution, often by working in partnership with other charities.
I hosted someone recently, a 19 year-old student at college with the goal of becoming a doctor some day; it’s not the first time I’ve hosted her. When my guests leave I always say to them that I hope I don’t see them again – not in a bad way, but in a caring way. I hope that they get a place to call their own quickly, and don’t need Nightstop any longer.
What happens to Nightstop guests when they move on?
I have checked in with Nightstop on occasions to see how previous guests were doing.
One 17 year old stayed with me a few times and was terrified of turning 18 and becoming an adult.
I was thrilled to hear she had been placed in longer term accommodation and finally found a place to call her own.
I realise I can’t change the homeless crisis but I can play a small part in helping a young person at their time of need. I’ve learnt a huge amount from them and their different lives. I hope I’ve made them feel safe and helped them to understand that people do care. I haven’t had any complaints about my cooking yet! I know that amongst my network I am lucky to have a spare room and I choose to use it in this way.
I hope that my experience with Nightstop might inspire you to volunteer your spare room, even just for one night a week. It’s a valuable way to help young people in crisis.