An urgent appeal has gone out for host families to help local teenagers who might otherwise end up sleeping on the streets this winter.
Families across North Devon and Torridge are desperately needed to provide short term emergency accommodation for young people aged from 16 to 19 who have nowhere else to go.
The Junction Project, part of Encompass Southwest, is relaunching its host family scheme thanks to funding from Children in Need and as more and more young people find themselves at risk of being homeless.
Claire Fisher, CEO at homeless charity Encompass, said they were seeing an increase in young people needing emergency accommodation.
She said: “Now more than ever it is vital we re-establish the host family scheme in North Devon and Torridge.
“The host family project allows our youth team to work not only with the young person but also their family, as our aim is to always support them to return home if it is safe to do so.
“Being a host family can bring real rewards in knowing that you have prevented a young person from a pathway of rough sleeping and homelessness.”
As the housing crisis continues, there is very little emergency accommodation for young people in the area.
Families would be asked to provide a warm, safe and welcoming environment, perhaps for just a night or two, but up to a maximum of 28 days.
They would be asked to offer an evening meal, breakfast, washing and laundry facilities, but also the opportunity to simply talk if the young person wanted to.
Full support and training will be provided for any families who take part, as well as £15 per night to cover expenses.
No one would simply turn up on their doorstep – families would be asked first and can offer accommodation as often or as little as they wish.
Young people can find themselves facing homelessness following a breakdown in relationships at their family home, often through no fault of their own.
Support workers ensure that anyone on the host family scheme does not have significant mental health issues, a history of violence or challenging behaviour and no drug or alcohol issues.
Youth support worker James Moss said a host family can make a real difference to someone’s life at a time when they need it most.
He said: “As a support worker, I am aware that it is such a critical service – I have found it heart-breaking when young people I am working with end up rough sleeping.
“Recently I was working with a guy; we knew the date he was due to be made homeless, but despite doing all the right things there just wasn’t the beds available and he ended up rough sleeping in the woods – if this service had been in place he wouldn’t have suffered that.”
If you would like to find out more about becoming a host family, call Encompass for an application pack on email [email protected]