Charity to extend successful ‘spare room for homeless’ scheme in Scotland
Nightstop, run by charity Depaul, pairs homeless 16 to 25-year-olds with people who have offered their free bedrooms and is widely used in England, but currently has limited reach in Scotland.
Across the UK there are 38 Nightstop services centres in major cities, but in Scotland just one – in Edinburgh – is in operation and charity leaders want this to change.
Nightstop is intended to be a stopgap measure to ensure vulnerable youngsters do not get stuck in the homeless system and benefit from the support of hosts while they stay for a temporary period.
Teenagers and young adults who enter the homeless system for the first time can often get placed in unsuitable hostels or B&B accommodation, where a stay of nine to 12 months is not uncommon.
Over half of all people seeking help with homelessness in the UK are under 25 and around 80,000 young people experience homelessness each year.
These figures fail to account for the young people who attempt to avoid the homeless system are frequently forced to “sofa-surf” or in the worst cases sleep rough on park benches, whom Nightstop attempt to target.
Natalie Carr-Rafferty, 47, a mental health nurse who lives in North Shields in the north-east of England with her husband, has been hosting for two nights a week for about a year.
The mother of two grown-up children told The Herald: “When my kids moved out it was lovely and peaceful but it bothered me that we had two big spare bedrooms and there were people who were homeless.
“Nightstop is great, I absolutely love it. There have been no issues whatsoever, it’s all been really, really good. You find the people are just so grateful, they can’t believe someone is actually doing this. I can understand people being nervous. We were, even after doing it a few times because you think who’s coming to the house. But there’s never been a problem and they are more nervous that you are.”
Simon Community Scotland, which will be running Nightstop on behalf of Depaul in Glasgow, is appealing for hosts so it can launch in the New Year.
Lorraine McGrath, chief executive of the charity, believes the scheme offers an alternative to the current approach to youth homelessness in Scotland.
“Nightstop is about preventing the escalation of homelessness for vulnerable young people. I’d love to see it across Scotland as an option for young people that keeps them away from mainstream homeless services and particularly people who are homeless for the first time, offering a safe, supportive space,” she said.
“Hosts come from all walks of life and it is a really rewarding and meaningful thing to do. There are tens of thousands of bed nights managed across England and Wales and virtually no incidents,” she added.
As part of Nightstop both hosts and young people are vetted by the charity and there is a dedicated support line to contact 24 hours a day.