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YMCA volunteer speaks about Bridgwater scheme to help homeless
ASK most people to describe their image of a homeless person and they'll probably describe a scruffy man with a dog sitting on a dirty rag and attempting to play an instrument.
But Bridgwater YMCA volunteer and mum of two Sally East is hoping to change that perception by sharing her experience of taking part in a Nightstop scheme.
Nightstop, spearheaded by the YMCA in partnership with Sedgemoor District Council, has been running in Sedgemoor for the last 18 months and gives homeless young people a roof over their heads for the night.
Sally, 48, from Othery, said: “I met with a Home Projects Worker who spoke at our church about the scheme. I have a spare room and after hearing about the vulnerable young people it helps, I couldn't say no.
“I've only been volunteering at the YMCA since summer and I've only been a host in the scheme for a month. I've had three people stay with me so far and it's going great.”
There are many young people in Bridgwater who are homeless due to family breakdowns, bereavement, poverty and unemployment.
They use 'sofa surfing' at friends and relatives homes as a way of keeping a roof over their heads, often staying at a different place each night - which can put them at risk.
“Nightstop involves host families giving homeless young people between 16 to 24 a safe haven for a night,” said Sally.
“The 16-year-old I've had staying with me has fallen out with his family a bit so he ended up staying with a mate for a month. He has a job stacking shelves at a supermarket two days a week and is studying at college, but cannot yet support himself.
“He had to find somewhere and he's staying with me until a room in a hostel opens up.
“Another person who stayed with me was 18 and she had an alcohol and drug problem and was kicked out of her home. She wanted to sort herself out. She was absolutely fine when she was staying with me. No problems at all.”
Sally says the scheme works because the visitors are on their best behaviour, knowing they are guests.
She added: “It's easy, they're like any teenager. They help out around the house like your own kids. They're very grateful for having someone to talk to and somewhere to sleep.”
In return for their support, host families are given induction, training and expenses.
For more information visit www.bridgwaterymca.org or call Brittney Strange on 01278 726040.