The Homeless Fund: Met Police inspector gives homeless a roof over their heads

Met inspector Andy Briers has hosted 70 youngsters – and his family love it

Naomi Ackerman
Thursday 16 January 2020 18:44 GMT
Andy Briers
Andy Briers

A Metropolitan Police inspector who opens his spare room to homeless teenagers has called on Londoners to join him in offering a bed for the night.

Youth crime expert Andy Briers, 54, who has been in the Met since 1991, said giving people in need a roof over their heads made a “real difference”.

He was one of the first police officers to be placed in schools and today works with minors in a specialist crime unit, which focuses on gangs and child exploitation.

The father-of-two, from north London, has seen the power of early intervention and support in helping young people build better lives.

Together with wife Michelle, 51, Inspector Briers signed up seven years ago to offer a bed through Nightstop, run since 1987 by London-based youth homelessness charity Depaul.

Depaul interviews and allocates clients aged 16 to 25 to one of its 70 Nightstop hosts in London. Allocations are flexible, and all hosts receive training.

The charity then liaises with hosts to arrange one or several hosts for up to 10 nights, by which time Depaul or local authorities will have found supported accommodation.

This news website, with sister title The Evening Standard, has launched a two-year appeal to help raise money to ensure a group of 23 charities – the London Homeless Collective – can offer vital support like the Nightstop programme.

The World’s Big Sleep Out has helped raise more than £400,000 to help fund Depaul and other LHC charities.

The Briers family have hosted around 70 young people. Most stay just one night, but one boy who “felt comfortable” stayed for three weeks. When the couple signed up, their sons Charlie, now 21, and Frazer, 20, were in secondary school.

Spending time with people their age who had nothing and were so grateful to have a safe place to sleep “opened their minds”.

The Homeless Fund: Cat's story

The inspector said: “It is very humbling to do this. It’s one of the best things I’ve done. It’s not difficult if you have a spare room, and it makes such a difference. You just need to be there once every few weeks with a meal and a hot shower.

“Mostly we have tea, watch the football on the telly and listen to their stories. Some of them have been through so much. My boys were quite young teenagers at the time we started, and they were the same age, and it’s good for them to hear about the world… It helped shape them.”

The policeman, who does not mention his job to guests unless they ask, admits: “Sometimes you open the door to some of the young lads and you think ‘blimey, I hope all will be well’ and then they are the sweetest kids… It’s about breaking down stereotypes.”

He has seen how giving a caring, safe home – even for just a few nights – goes some way towards preventing them falling into a life of crime or becoming a victim.

“If they are sleeping in the bushes they are very likely to become either victims or perpetrators, to become involved with things like county lines,” he said.

Ian Forster of Nightstop said: “Nightstop can act as a safety net for the homeless.”


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