Volunteers open up their homes as accommodation for homeless young people in Hertfordshire

The aim of the scheme is to stop young people sofa surfing
The aim of the scheme is to stop young people sofa surfing

A charity has launched a new emergency accommodation service for 18 to 24 year olds in a bid to combat rough sleeping in the county.

Herts Young Homeless (hyh) has set up its Nightstop Herts service – and it’s different from other initiatives, as the beds in the scheme are all provided by volunteers.

TJ Nicholls says there is 'limited support' for people aged 18-24

TJ Nicholls says there is 'limited support' for people aged 18-24

The residents who sign up can offer up a spare room in their own homes for up to five nights at a time.

“We’ve learned from calls to our free advice line that there is a need for Nightstop Herts,” explains hyh’s operations manager TJ Nicholls.

“There is very limited support for the 18 to 24 age group unless they have additional needs.

“The aim is to prevent young people from sleeping rough, ‘sofa surfing’, or staying in unsuitable accommodation where they could be at risk.

“They may have moved in with partners and the relationship has broken down but they’re still working in the area so can’t go back home, or they could need breathing space away from the family home because there’s conflict, arguments or overcrowding in the house.”

Nightstop Herts currently has 12 bed spaces across Hertfordshire but hyh is hoping to be able to offer more.

All hosts are given training and have access to a 24-hour helpline. They can volunteer as little or as often as they like and are always given the final say on whether they want to accept a young person.

Hosts are also paid a fee for each night a young person stays with them.

“It didn’t seem a hard thing to do – letting someone sleep in the spare room every now and then,” said Nightstop Herts host Sarah Hagger-Holt.

“It’s about recognising that everybody needs time and space sometimes.

“With family it can get pressurised, it can get difficult; there can be deeper-rooted problems as well.”

Nightstop Herts also gives hyh time to work with the young person, helping them access services such as their mediation team or those delivered by other agencies.

The charity’s CEO Helen Elliott, said: “Rough sleeping has been on the increase among young people since 2010.

“Being forced to sleep rough or ‘sofa surf’ can be one of the most frightening experiences of a young adult’s life.

“Without appropriate support, not only can their mental wellbeing be affected but they can become trapped in a cycle of homelessness.

“hyh has a number of different services designed to prevent this from happening.

“Complementing the work of Nightstop Herts, we are funding an 18-plus helpline providing housing advice to anyone concerned about their situation and rough sleeping.”

A donation of just £25 will fund one night for a young person in Nightstop Herts.

hyh’s scheme is affiliated to national youth homelessness charity Depaul UK which ensures the standard of all 33 Nightstop programmes across the country.

For more information about Nightstop Herts and how to become a host, email nightstopherts@hyh.org.uk