Night under the stars to raise awareness of youth homelessness

Darlington and Stockton Times: A charity is looking for volunteers to take part in sleep-outs in Northallerton and Richmond to raise awareness of youth homelessness A charity is looking for volunteers to take part in sleep-outs in Northallerton and Richmond to raise awareness of youth homelessness

VOLUNTEERS are preparing to spend a night sleeping under the stars to raise cash and awareness for a youth homelessness charity.

Sleep-outs will take place in Northallerton and Richmond organised by charity Safe and Sound Homes (SASH), which helps prevent young people becoming homeless by offering them a room in a volunteer’s home.

Through the Nightstop scheme, SASH volunteers offer a young person facing homelessness a bed for the night in their spare room, an evening meal and breakfast the next day.

Having access to Nightstop means people are kept safe and supported while they get the help they need at a time of crisis.

Northallerton resident and homeless charity volunteer Rowena Webster, aged 69, has provided 62 nights of emergency accommodation since 2009.

She said: “I’m doing the sleep-out again this year because, as a host, I am aware of the situations such vulnerable young people face.

“One night of discomfort and little sleep at this event is nothing compared to the uncertainty and anxiety these young people face.”

Catterick host Helen Skeoch said: “When people ask me why I do Nightstop, I say ‘Why not?’ It’s no hardship to me.

“After all, it could have been me homeless when I was younger, my children or even my grandchildren. I would like to think there was someone there for them should the need ever arise.”

In 2013, SASH offered 59 nights of accommodation for 24 young people in Hambleton and Richmondshire.

The charity operates across North Yorkshire, York and the East Riding and works alongside the district councils, Foundation, Broadacres and other agencies.

Youth homelessness is a hidden problem as most young people do not end up rough sleeping. Instead they ‘sofa surf’, sleeping on sofas or floors of friends and relatives.

The practice leaves young people vulnerable to abuse and exploitation and often results in them being unable to continue their education or hold down a job.

Liam, who was recently helped by the charity said: “Being in Nightstop meant I had time to sort things out, without worrying where I was going to stay at night.

“I can’t say enough about how important it was for me. I don’t think the volunteers realise how much of a positive impact they actually have. If it wasn’t for them, I would have been in a much lower place.”

The Northallerton sleep-out is taking place on Saturday, March 22 from 10pm at Northallerton Methodist Church, and the Richmond sleep-out is on Friday, April 4 from 10pm at St Marys Church.

The sleep-out is open to anyone who is fit and healthy and wants to help, but under-17s must be accompanied by a responsible adult.

To sign up visit www.sash-uk.org.uk or call Gillian Lunn 07592-016476 for a registration pack. For more information call SASH on 01904-652043 or email info@sash-uk.org.uk.

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