Dan, 18, was on the verge of homelessness when he walked into Kidderminster charity Wyre Forest Nightstop and asked for help.
In the first of a series of articles about homelessness in north Worcestershire, Dan reveals how kind strangers helped put him on the path to a better life.
“I’m smiling now – I can see a future. I see the world in a more positive light. When your situation changes, everything else changes.”
Sat in the warmth and welcome of Kidderminster’s Youth House, Dan, 18, can’t seem to stop smiling. It’s a broad, sincere smile that lights up the room; it’s the smile of a grateful man.
Yet just a few weeks ago this charming, friendly teenager was at a low ebb. Homeless, sad and alone, he thought his future was bleak.
That’s why he is so eager to articulate his gratitude for the charity and the strangers that have been his saviour, welcoming him into their home and hearts.
Dan is one of more than 100 young people who were given a bed, practical help and emotional support by Wyre Forest Nightstop last year when they found themselves facing the prospect of homelessness.
After turning 18, Dan had to vacate the supported living project in Worcester that had been home for two years, and he found himself with nowhere else to go.
He ended up in Kidderminster and was advised to visit the Youth House, in Bromsgrove Street, which houses a range of youth services including the charity Wyre Forest Nightstop, where he found a welcome that far exceeded his expectations.
Within hours of turning up on a cold winter’s day and being accepted by the charity, Dan was taken to the home of Alison and Hugh Burton, one of four host families in Wyre Forest who support the charity’s work.
“As soon as I walked into the house the atmosphere was very welcoming. From my past experiences I didn’t know what to expect…but it was great.”
Listen and Watch: Dan talks about his experience
The couple, who have four grown up children of their own, invited Dan to spend Christmas Day with them – an experience both Dan and his hosts found mutually heart-warming.
Dan is now back in education, and has secured a two year tenancy in a local housing project. He is also now a regular volunteer at the Youth House, doing his bit to support the charity that was there for him. He’s receiving counselling organised by the charity and, for the first time, is looking forward with confidence.
“Before I came here it felt like the situation I was in wasn’t going to end, I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, but now I can definitely see a future and how things have improved.”
The emergency accommodation project run by Nightstop in Wyre Forest is one of a network of services across the country supported by the charity Depaul.
Formed in 2005, the Wyre Forest service has grown significantly and now offers a range of support for young people aged 16-25 and their families.
In the years ahead their work will increasingly focus on prevention and early intervention for young people and families in crisis but the emergency night project remains its core service.
Last year a total of 127 emergency nights were provided to young people, all hosted in family homes.
The charity also supported a total of 668 young people who feared homelessness or were in distress.
Its family mediation service, currently offered in north Worcestershire, is expanding into south Worcestershire this year after the charity secured a contract to deliver a five year programme of support there.
Last year 26 Wyre Forest families were supported through 70 mediation sessions, designed to help repair broken relationships between young people and their parents or carers, or to support families going through crisis.
The service also links up with secondary schools in Kidderminster and Bewdley, offering interactive homelessness sessions. Their schools education programme reached 552 students through planned sessions and outreach work during 2017.
It doesn’t stop there – the charity is also lead partner in the Axis Youth Hub along with Our Way, KDYT and the Basement project. The Hub supported 111 young people last year, working alongside 28 local agencies including Wyre Forest District Council, Citizens’ Advice, Swanswell drug and alcohol service, social workers and the Department of Work & Pensions.
Nightstop relies on a range of incomes including grants, local trusts, statutory funding from Wyre Forest District Council, business support and fundraising events.
Could you support a young person in need? Contact Wyre Forest Nightstop to see how you can help on 01562 743111 or visit www.wyreforestnightstop.org.uk
COMING SOON: Could you provide a bed in your family home for a homeless young person? We meet a family who do precisely that.