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ACVO News May 2024

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Sep 6, 2023

Do you have a spare room? Become a host at Nightstop.

Aberdeen Foyer’s Nightstop service supports young people at risk of homelessness across Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire.

Their dedicated network of volunteers – known as hosts – allow respite for a young person who presents as homeless by providing them with a spare room, hot evening meal and a listening ear.

We spoke with Megan Douglas, Co-ordinator for Nightstop North East Scotland, to find out more about the service and how those with a spare room can become a host for young people who need a safe place to stay for a few nights.

Megan Douglas, Nightstop North East Scotland Co-ordinator

Can you explain the Nightstop service and your role as the Co-ordinator?

Nightstop is a national service run through a charity called Depaul UK. Aberdeen Foyer introduced the Nightstop model to the North East of Scotland last year which works to prevent young people from experiencing homelessness.

Currently, Nightstop North East Scotland is about keeping young people safe just for that short time, so they do not have to sleep somewhere that is dangerous, or somewhere unsafe, we want to make sure that the young people we support have a place to live and to thrive.

My job as the Co-ordinator is to support the hosts, giving them the confidence to volunteer and provide their spare room to a young person. We do safety checks in terms of an interview, home assessment, references, enrolling in the Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) scheme, and then volunteer training. There is quite a lot that goes into getting the hosts ready to ensure that they are comfortable and confident during their hosting journey and to ensure it is safe for everyone involved.

We are looking to recruit hosts constantly throughout Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire. We do this by going and speaking to groups, posting on social media and communicating the key message of: “Do you have a spare room?” That is where it starts – if the potential host has a spare room, then we can explore if they would be able to volunteer as part of Nightstop.

Can you tell us more about the hosts and what they have to provide in order to volunteer with Nightstop?

All that Nightstop hosts need to be able to offer is a spare room, a hot evening meal and a listening ear. We’re not looking for people who are qualified social workers or experienced youth workers – hosts just need to be human and have a desire to help at that most basic level. We then put all the support and training in and get them comfortable and confident to be able to volunteer.

We see many types of hosts throughout the Nightstop network: those who are retired; ‘empty nesters’; single households; those still with children at home. They are coming from all different backgrounds, which is amazing to see. It’s really inspiring to hear their motivations for wanting to volunteer: whether it’s come from a personal aspect through their own childhood, or relationship with their own family, or sometimes people just have the space and want to do some good.

“What we are doing with Nightstop is preventing that spiralling situation that may come with the risk of becoming homeless. We don’t want the young person’s life falling apart just because of their current living situation.”

For young people who present as homeless, in what ways are they involved with Nightstop and how are they referred?

In terms of the young people themselves, we support those within the age range of 16 to 25. What we are doing with Nightstop is preventing that spiralling situation that may come with the risk of becoming homeless. We don’t want the young person’s life falling apart just because of their current living situation.

We take referrals from the Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire Councils. Their Housing Officers refer a young person to us at Nightstop and, as long as we can get all the boxes ticked, we house that young person with a host as soon as possible. For example, if a referral comes through first thing in the morning, we could have that young person in host’s home by the same evening.

If there is a young person who has had a difficult time with their parents at home, and that relationship is at breaking point, having that young person come and stay at a Nightstop host’s home for a short time can offer some much needed respite. From there, we can support the young person and their family by offering mediation and look into getting them back home, if that is the right thing for them.

The length of stays really vary depending on the duration, it depends on host availability and what is right for that young person. In terms of respite, it could be for a week or two, it could just be for a weekend. It depends on what’s needed for that young person and their family.

How do you ensure and maintain the quality of service through volunteer hosts?

“A lot of investment goes into our volunteer hosts, because without hosts we don’t have a service. We hugely appreciate that they are doing an amazing thing by opening up their home to young people.”

The length of stays really vary depending on the duration, it depends on host availability and what is right for that young person. In terms of respite, it could be for a week or two, it could just be for a weekend. It depends on what’s needed for that young person and their family.

Hosts go through their training together, which I think is really important. They are all able to learn together and from each other, and from here they are able to support one another in their own host community.

Hosts also have the chance to identify their own training needs, which is a great opportunity for them as they can tailor the training to suit their hosting situation. This ensures the volunteer is fit to host each individual and maintains that quality of service.

It is also important for us to make sure that everybody is comfortable and confident in the hosting journey. When the young person is being hosted, we offer 24/7 on-call support. If there ever happens to be an incident that the host doesn’t feel that they are able to handle, then they can call us, and we’ll offer that phone support for them.

Why do you think it is important to offer a service like Nightstop in the North East of Scotland?

In 2021, it was established that 720 young people across the city and Shire presented as homeless. From a Scotland-wide perspective, that’s a really high number. Nightstop helps prevent this by halting youth homelessness in its tracks.

Nightstop is an important service because, at the moment, a young person who presents as homeless may be offered space in a hostel. From our understanding, this is not the right option for a young person as they don’t have the support that they would receive from our service.

Nightstop, as a community-hosting alternative, offers young people a protective, welcoming environment, their own room, a hot evening meal and someone to sit and have a bit of a chat with. Through Nightstop, the young person is also fully supported by Aberdeen Foyer and the other services we provide, which is just not possible through a stay in a hostel.

What would you say to someone who is considering becoming a host?

Please give us a call if you are thinking of becoming a host with us. I am always happy to have an informal chat with anyone about Nightstop and answer any questions you may have. Since Nightstop has been on the go for decades now, we have got all the answers to any questions or queries.

We also offer regular online information sessions for people considering volunteering with us at Nightstop. This gives anyone a chance to come and find out about the service and the step-by-step process of becoming a host.

We are always looking to expand our network of volunteers to allow the best flexibility for our hosts. Hosts have the prerogative to decide their own availability, a host can offer up their spare room for two weeks out of the entire year for example, we’re really flexible with the commitment required. We constantly look to raise the Nightstop profile and find anyone willing to provide their spare room so that we’re able to support as many young people as possible.

If you are interested in finding out more about Nightstop, or if you would like to find out more about becoming a host, please visit aberdeenfoyer.com/nightstop or contact Megan Douglas by phone 07467 919813 or email nightstop@aberdeenfoyer.com

This article originally appeared in the September edition of ACVO News, you can read the magazine and subscribe below. All past editions are available to read at acvo.org.uk/acvo-news

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