Charity begins at home

In the face of rising homelessness, a Cricklewood couple are providing homeless young people a bed for the night

A couple hold hands with a young child
Katy and Will give young homeless people a bed for the night

Cricklewood residents Katy Moyle and her partner Will are hosting vulnerable young people in their home this winter as volunteers in homelessness charity DePaul’s Nightstop programme.

Before moving into their Cricklewood home, the couple lived in New York from 2015 and moved back to the UK in 2019. When they arrived, Katy was struck by the amount of visible homelessness there was on the streets as she walked to and from her office and the railway station.

Katy started to research homelessness rates to see if it had increased as much as she thought it had based on what she’d seen on her commute. She found that rough sleeping across the capital had more than doubled in some boroughs and admits that it made her feel very sad.

As part of Nightstop. trained and vetted volunteers across the UK offer a safe place, a hot meal, and washing facilities for a young person facing a night on the streets or sleeping in an unsafe place.

Katy says: “I found Nightstop on Google, and it seemed like a really safe and secure way of helping young people who need it the most. After we did the training, everything about how safe it is was confirmed. Things are very clear, and tightly controlled so both us, as hosts, and the person who comes to stay always understand what the boundaries are.”

“We began hosting a couple of years ago, and stopped for a short while when I was eight months pregnant with [our child] Zac. We started to host again when Zac was around six-months old. As Nightstop hosts, we play a key role in helping them by providing a safe space for the night, a hot shower and a meal so they’re safe, can get some sleep and have time to think about what they’re going to do next.”

DePaul says that in the first six months of this year, there was a 30% increase in referrals to the emergency accommodation service, Nightstop.

In London alone, new statistics show a 12% increase in the number of people sleeping rough in London compared to the same period last year and a 6% rise in the number of 18-25 year olds. This is according to London’s Combined Homelessness and Information Network figures.

The charity says that the combined impact of increased debt, spiralling bills, and low incomes could lead to conflict in households, which exacerbates family and relationship breakdowns, which is one of the key causes behind the increase of young people vulnerable to homelessness.

Last year, Depaul UK worked with more than 2,000 young people, supporting them to find accommodation, stability, and employment opportunities. It operates services across England, in London, the North East, Greater Manchester and South Yorkshire.

Nicola Harwood, Executive Director of Services from Depaul UK said: “We know that many young people who have nowhere to go, often because of family conflict, may accept an offer to stay with someone they’ve just met, or they’ll ride buses throughout the night, seek out 24-hour bars, only to find themselves among much older and sometimes predatory people.

“Living like this poses extraordinary risks. Nightstop provides emergency accommodation and offers a lifeline to many young homeless people in crisis. We help those sleeping on the streets tonight, and ensure that others who have run out of options never have to sleep on the streets. It’s vital that young people know that they’re not alone, that this is temporary and that they have their whole lives ahead of them.”

The charity is running an urgent winter appeal to raise funds to support more volunteers like Katy and Will.

For more information on DePaul and Nightstop, visit www.depaul.org.uk

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