Open up your home to help prevent rough sleeping, Suffolk residents urged

The Benjamin Foundations Heart and Home scheme is designed to prevent youth homelessness. Picture: Ian Burt

The Benjamin Foundations Heart and Home scheme is designed to prevent youth homelessness. Picture: Ian Burt

Archant 2018

Householders in Suffolk have been urged to open their doors to vulnerable young people at risk of homelessness - in a bid to cut the risk of rough sleeping.

The number of people sleeping on Suffolk’s streets has increased in recent years, although a multipronged attacked by organisations like Ipswich’s Chapman Centre has significantly reduced levels this winter.

However support workers have warned the success in preventing rough sleeping does not change the fact homeless people are still ‘sofa surfing’ and using shelters - with many of those being young people.

Now the Benjamin Foundation, which works to prevent youth homelessness in Suffolk, is looking to expand a supported lodging service where residents give struggling young people a roof over their heads.

Called Heart and Home, it pairs young people at risk of homelessness for a variety of reasons - such as family breakdown - with adults who can provide them with a spare room.

Unlike fostering, the Benjamin Foundation says the arrangement is designed to be “very light touch” as most of the help for the young person will be provided by a separate support worker.

However the charity says it gives young people “stability, safety and the building blocks to shape an independent life”.

One 17-year-old who made use of the service, who asked only to be known as Josh, said: “Me and my family didn’t get on and I was kicked out.”

Of his host home, he said: “It’s nice here. They’ve helped me to get a job, got me into college to do English and maths and now I’m trying to get an apprenticeship.

“I’ve learnt independence skills like how to cook and I’ve become more ‘money wise’. I’m looking forward to the next steps.”

At the moment the organisation has just seven “hosts” in Suffolk.

However Heart and Home support worker Rachel Sampson said increasing that would significantly reduce the chances of youth homelessness.

Many young people at risk of homelessness end up in shared accommodation with other people in the same position - but Miss Sampson said that did not work for everyone.

“This is a supported learning environment which provides them with normality because they live with a family,” she said.

“It’s a very well thought of service. A young person might’ve had a breakdown in a relationship and need somewhere to stay. Some may be really struggling financially.

“It really does just provide a room for that person. It’s not like foster care, it’s a watered-down version. It’s very light touch.”

Part of the agreement young people sign up to with the Heart and Home service is that they find accommodation or stay in work.

Chris Elliott, marketing and fundraising manager for the Benjamin Foundation, said: “We want to get young people onto the right path.

“For us it is about preventing homelessness. Most aren’t living rough but need support to keep them going the right way.

“A lot of young people find it challenging living with a lot of other young people. Supported learning offers something different.”

For more information about Heart and Home, including how to volunteer as a host, call the Benjamin Foundation on 01603 886930.

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