10 May 2013

The YMCA’s Nightstop service provides emergency accommodation to homeless young people who need somewhere to stay for a couple of nights until something more permanent is arranged for them. Rachael and Kenny were approved as Emergency Nightstop Hosts for YMCA Black Country Group’s Open Door Scheme late last year and have just had their 4th placement. Rachael has given an insight into what being a Nightstop host means to her.

“We applied to become Nightstop Hosts because I used to work with young people in a hostel and I often thought I could make more of a difference in their lives if I could just take them home with me. What they really needed was a safe, warm home, a good meal and someone to take an interest in them. We both work full time and irregular hours so the Emergency Nightstop scheme seemed like a good option for us. Although it’s called Nightstop, the young person can stay for up to 2 weeks while they search for more permanent accommodation. Sometimes they move in to Supported Lodgings with another Open Door Host, they may go back to family or move in to the YMCA.

“I always feel slightly apprehensive before they arrive, wondering what they will be like and if they will like us. I remember it must be a hundred times harder for them walking in to the home of a complete stranger. I’ve always been good at talking complete rubbish and this can be a real skill when I’m trying to put a young person at ease. I sit down with them and have a drink and a chat when they arrive.

“I tell them about our family and introduce them to my 13 year old son and the cat that live here too. I ask them if they know the area, about what type of food they like to eat, what football team they support, what they like watching on TV, what games they play. I then show them around the house and the room they will be sleeping in.

The four young people who have stayed with us have all been very different but we have enjoyed the brief time they have spent with us. While they stay, they just fit in as part of the family. They eat their meals with us and if we go out, they come with us. We have taken them out for meals, out shopping, watched movies with them. They play with my son on his Play Station and Kenny is a football referee so he takes them with him to watch if they want to.

“We are paid an allowance of £20 per night by the YMCA while they stay with us which more than covers our costs. I try to spoil them a little bit while they are with us, buying them little treats and try to show them a bit of kindness.

The hardest part is when they leave. It’s amazing how quickly you get attached to these young people. We had a young lad stay with us last week. I do a bit of running and he came to watch me in a race at the weekend. This morning when I dropped him off at the bus stop, he said to me “You did really well yesterday, if you were my mom, I would be really proud of you.” This almost broke my heart but it also made me realise how much the service we are providing is needed. These young people need positive role models in their life. I would urge anyone who is thinking about becoming a host to give it a try.

“The YMCA Staff are really supportive. If you need help and advice, they are there for you. There are a lot of young people out there who need help and you could be the one to make a difference in their lives.”

Do you think you could be a NightStop Host? Contact YMCA Open Door Team today on 0121 524 1957 or email opendoor@ymcabc.org.uk