“We’ve been volunteering our spare room for Sussex Nightstop for three years now and have met many lovely people who just needed a little support. It’s not only a pleasure to help out but we think of it as a social responsibility.”
A Transient Bond
In 1985 I moved to Los Angeles with my boyfriend, two suitcases and $11 in my pocket. We slept on friends’ floors and couches until we could scrape together enough money for a studio apartment in an alley behind Graumann’s Chinese Theatre, where stars leave their footprints in cement. While our rent was paid, we had little money for food, which didn’t go unnoticed by two neighbours, a mother and daughter who were both named Margot. One day I came home from work to find bags of groceries at our front door – beans and rice and pasta – and a note from Margot and Margot saying that the only payment required was to do the same for someone else one day.
In the past year my husband and I have worked with Nightstop and have welcomed a dozen young people into our home. Smart, shy, sad, funny, charming – we never know what sort of person will walk through the door. But they’ve all been wonderful in their own way, and being there for them has been one of the best things I’ve ever done. Sometimes a bed, a change of clothes and a bowl of spaghetti can make all of the difference. With clean clothes and a good night’s sleep one can get a job, save money, get a place to live, and start a life. Being there in that window of opportunity has been amazing, and we’ve loved every minute of it.
Sometimes we don’t get a ‘thank you’ – probably out of shyness, more than anything else. But sometimes we do. The other day the young lad who’s been staying with us, who rocked up with just a backpack and a guitar, sent me a text out of the blue, which just said ‘Thank you for looking after me’. I think Margot and Margot would be proud.
Nightstop saves lives
On a rainy Friday in April, I met Chloe. She had been evicted by her mum due to overcrowding; herself living in a three bed house with 6 children. Chloe, her ten month old son and 16yr old boyfriend had been placed in emergency accommodation in Eastbourne, they were in a damp attic room, with no heating, from where they were unable to get to school in Brighton to complete their GCSEs.
They didn’t stay long. The young family soon left their emergency accommodation, going back to sofa-surf with family, with Chloe sleeping on the sofa and her baby in his buggy. Their case was passed to social services and they were referred to Nightstop pending an assessment.
Chloe was calm, controlled, stoic. She had a plan for her life and a clear idea of how to achieve her goals. Chloe was very clear that she wanted to live as a family, she didn’t want a foster placement for her and her son.
Chloe, her son and boyfriend were assessed and put forward for a place in a young families’ project. During this time, Chloe and her son stayed with our host family, who gave them their own room and space, trust, friendship and care, sharing their home with this young mum for six weeks.
A place in the young families’ project became available and they moved in.
This young family are now happily settled into their own self-contained flat in supported housing, with a support worker. Chloe has completed her GCSE exams, attended her school prom and started at college.
Her Nightstop host said “it’s inspiring, these young people we meet and how much they teach us about ourselves as well as their lives”
As a family our hosts said they gained “a sense of purpose and having an impact on young people’s lives when they are so much in need.
Chloe said she felt safe and welcomed in her Nightstop home which “was very lovely and welcoming”. “Nightstop helped me and my son, when we had nowhere to go, I am so grateful they helped me as I didn’t know where else to go. They gave me hope! It’s such an amazing thing”.
Due to some great partnership working, her own resilience, understanding her needs and being very clear about what she wanted, Chloe, her son and partner got through this incredibly difficult period with the support of Nightstop. Her stay with us allowed her to stay at school and complete her GCSEs, which will help her to provide for her son in the future.
Olly an 18 year old male was referred and accepted into Nightstop following a period of rough sleeping after things broke down at home with his Mum. Olly first presented as very shy and timid and a little afraid of staying in Nightstop. He was originally from Ghana and had limited English and little support networks in Brighton. He was placed in Nightstop and did very well with the hosts who supported him. To begin with he was a bit shy and withdrawn due newness in the situation and he didn’t want to eat or engage. After the first few nights and a weekend stay the host said that he was now eating loads helping with washing up and was polite and chattier.
Olly stayed in Nightstop for a total of 23 nights during this time he became a lot more confident in himself. We were able to prevent Olly an extremely vulnerable young man, with a history of rough sleeping from continuing to rough sleep and the dangers that are associated with that. Given his limited English and lack of support networks we felt that he was at high risk of coercion or exploitation. It was fantastic to see Olly move out of Nightstop and in to a specialist young person supported housing project.