Call for help from the service which helps young homeless people in Torbay
A new service working to get homeless young people off the streets is celebrating its 100th night with a desperate plea for more volunteer hosts.
Nightstop was launched last December, since then it has helped 15 young people and provided 100 nights of accommodation, ensuring they are not forced to live on the streets or in guesthouses.
Working from the South Devon YMCA in Goodrington, the service has been hit by a sudden and unexpected shortage of people able to welcome young people into their homes while their needs are assessed and alternative accommodation is found.
Youth homelessness can be triggered by a variety of issues, ranging from short-term family disputes to a breakdown in relationships resulting in a long-term change in circumstances.
But Nightstop’s goal is simple: to respond quickly to provide a private guest room in a family home, a hot meal, a shower, laundry facilities and a listening ear, which was described as a lifeline by whoever experienced this.
At just 22 years old, Daniel Cunliffe already knows very well what it means to be homeless.
He knows what it’s like to sleep rough, couch surf, try to get comfortable on the floors, and constantly be looking for a place to crash.
But somehow he hangs on and desperately wants to take a job in a kitchen, get a bank account and maybe, just maybe, have his own house.
Staying put and settling in one place is important to Daniel as he has been on the move since his teenage years when his warring parents first separated and his mother transported him from the family home of Wakefield to the east coast of Yorkshire.
When another attempt to reconcile his parents failed amid threats of violence, he fled, this time with his father and finally arrived in Torbay in 2015. Things were looking up.
Daniel enrolled in courses at South Devon College on preparation for the armed forces alongside marine engineering, mechanics and motorcycle maintenance and worked alongside his father in a motorcycle repair shop. boats.
Unfortunately, the business failed, as did Daniel’s relationship with his father, and the two separated: “I looked everywhere for help, but I just wasn’t a priority; there was no help available anywhere,” he recalls.
Although he had a job in a commercial kitchen, Daniel resorted to couch surfing thanks to friends, but mentally he was sinking lower and lower and when he found himself on the streets he was in despair. .
He spent his nights walking from Paignton to Torquay and back, staying in the well-lit streets. “It almost killed me and it completely destroyed me; I felt like I had nothing left,” he said.
What followed was Daniel’s first big cry for help and he ended up in Torbay Hospital after attempting to take his own life, but even that call fell on deaf ears.
“Professionals only contacted me once, and again no help was available,” he said.
Desperate and mostly alone, he drifted from kitchen work to kitchen work once again relying on the generosity and patience of his friends – and their couches.
In April this year, with another job lost when he fell out with a colleague over a moral principle, he again asked for help.
“I went to different agencies. I was homeless, suicidal and had nowhere to go. The answer was the same as usual, I was not a priority.
Faced with more nights roaming the streets, he was eventually referred to Nightstop, which was set up by the YMCA in Goodrington just before Christmas.
“They were there for me. They took me out of shit when I had nothing left.
“Everyone talks about the light at the end of the tunnel. Well, for me it was suddenly turned on again. Their timing was perfect because I honestly think that without the Nightstop team, I might not be here at all.
“Simply put, they were the last little hope I had, and they delivered. They were amazing.
Daniel was first placed with a volunteer in Bovey Tracey and within an hour was cooking for him and his host while the Nightstop team began to assess his long-term needs.
He then spent a few more nights with hosts in Paignton and Bovey before securing a place with the Amber Foundation, a charity with a residential center in Chumleigh, Devon, which specializes in helping young people get back on their feet. homeless.
As he gets his life back on track, he has one request for everyone: “Please look at the big picture. Nobody wants to be homeless. People tend to blame alcohol and drugs, but they may have come later to escape a terrible reality.
“Stop making assumptions. Look at me, I was there asking for help and there was no one there for me, until Nightstop came along. Thank God they did.
Maria Goodwin, CEO of YMCA South Devon, said: ‘Sadly Daniel is not the only one left homeless and Nightstop are here 365 days a year to provide safety cover for people like him when they need it. most needed.
“We urgently need more volunteer hosts who can open their doors to homeless young people aged 16 to 25, giving us time to make other arrangements. We offer 24 hour training and support.
If you can help or would like more information, contact the YMCA on 01803 551578 or email [email protected]