Safe haven for homeless teens

03 September 2019 | Midlands

St Basil

Volunteers offer a bed for the night to young people with nowhere to go.

An amazing team of people is working together to make sure young people facing homelessness have a safe place to stay.

Around 40 individuals and families offer a bed for the night to vulnerable 16 to 25-year-olds who would otherwise end up sleeping on the streets in the West Midlands.

The emergency foster care scheme is run by St Basil’s, a charity that supports young people who are homeless, or at risk of homelessness.

They help more than 5,000 people a year across areas including Birmingham, Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall, Warwickshire, Worcestershire, the Wyre Forest and Coventry.

And they could not offer the level of support they do without the help of their volunteers.

“These are a really special group of people,” says Barrie Hodge, from the charity.

“It is a very unique skill and you have to be a certain type of person to offer this. It can be a real challenge of course to take in someone you don’t know anything about. We find that these people tend to be in their late 40s and 50s whose own children have left home.

“And they often work or have worked in the caring profession as teachers or actual carers. These are people who see there is a need and just want to give back.”

He adds: “The people who act as emergency carers are an incredible group. What they are doing is making an investment in the future of the young people of the West Midlands. They are ultimately helping those who have fallen through the cracks. If that option wasn’t there, I would dread to think where they would end up. I have seen for myself the difference it makes to a young person when they have this new guardian who doesn’t judge them and invites them into their life. It’s amazing. We couldn’t do without them.”

The young people might need a room for the night, or they might stay for an indefinite amount of time building up strong bonds. It depends on many factors.

“It is such a diverse bunch of young people that come through our doors, but for all their usual support network has fallen through. We have around 65% who face mental health problems, some who have gone left home because of domestic violence, some who are undiagnosed as autistic and others who have been victims of attempted radicalisation.”

St Basil’s also houses more than 1,200 young people in 34 supported accommodation schemes. These are converted properties that can offer groups of young folk temporary shelter until they are able to find something more permanent. Up to 488 can be accommodated on any given night around the West Midlands.

St Basil’s have a range of prevention and support services to help young people regain the stability they need to rebuild their lives, gain skills, training and employment and move on. While they are being helped by St Basil’s in supported accommodation, they also learn skills such as how to cook, writing CVs and how to handle money.

The aim is always to help them break the cycle of homelessness.

“When they don’t come back, that is when we know we have been successful,” says Barrie.

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