Barbara has been a Host for nearly 2 years now. Having raised her own sons, it was a new experience for her having a female young person coming to live in her home. Here is her story.
My sister was a host with the YMCA for a number of years and she encouraged me to give it a go. I was worried about having a stranger in my house and knew that not every young person was the same. I was really hoping to have a good first experience and I did. I have had a young lady stay with me who was estranged from her family. It was a cultural issue and one which meant the young person needed the support of social workers, her School and a key worker from the YMCA. This meant that as a host I was not alone or solely responsible for her wellbeing and protection. This gave me great confidence to know I was part of a much bigger team and not left to muddle through with a young person that needed support and some constancy in her life.
I have really enjoyed having Jane with me. It took months for her to come out of her room and spend any-time with us and her mood was sometimes up and down, although she had a good support network from her School and friends. I came to realise that there is a difference being at home and then stepping out into a world of the unknown and where adults determined your future. But little by little her relationship with us blossomed and she is now a firm member of my family and gets on well with the neighbours and their children. We bake together, cook together and watch movies together when we can. The lockdown has really consolidated our relationship.
There was an occasion when Jane had to get ready for Prom. Her teachers took her shopping for her dress and she allowed one of the neighbours to help her with her hair and make-up. This was a lot of fun! Jane was promised a special car which fell through at the last minute. Unknown to us my son had overheard this and had arranged a car to pick her up on the day as a surprise. It surprised us all as we had no idea that he was solving the problem for us. It was a lovely blue BMW and Jane was over the moon. It really consolidated our relationship as a family and Jane realised, she was a most welcomed addition and not just a lodger.
Jane has grown in confidence whilst being here. She is doing well at school and has a lot of the social skills and financial household skills to cope once she leaves my care. The home has given her stability and she has a lovely room that she has made her own. She has even applied for a provisional driving licence and is looking forward to attending University once she completes her A Levels.
If you are thinking of becoming a Host
I would say “Have a go, you have nothing to lose and so much to gain”. I know that I, and so many people I talk to, are fearful of allowing a young person into their home, but there is a Match meeting to see if you are comfortable with each other and you do have constant support meetings with Key YMCA staff. Therefore, the link is key to both host and young person, allowing each of you share any issues, achievements or concerns. You are never alone with the YMCA and there are also lots of opportunities to meet other hosts and to learn and gain support as you develop your skill as a supportive and socially aware host.
If you have a spare room and you can support a young person on their life’s journey, don’t say no, simply have a go, the ball’s always in your court.