The Centrepoint Young and Homeless Helpline
First and foremost, the donations of Independent readers have made it possible for Centrepoint to launch the first nationwide young and homeless helpline for 16 to 25-year-olds who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.
Praising the “incredible generosity” of all those who donated, Nick Connolly, the Centrepoint helpline lead, said your money meant that Centrepoint could, on 13 February, launch a helpline that will prove “a game changer” in the fight against youth homelessness.
It would, he said, save lives and give young people futures worth having.
Centrepoint staff manning the helpline will be able to plug into the charity’s nationwide network of contacts, ensuring that wherever a young person is calling from, they will be directed towards someone local who can help. Young people will be able to phone a Freephone number or contact the helpline via email.
Crucially, the helpline will do something about a situation where Centrepoint research indicates that up to one in three young people seeking help with homelessness in England are being turned away unaided by their local council.
Mr Connolly said that pilot trials of the helpline are already suggesting just how valuable it can be to young people.
“One of the key pieces of feedback so far is that our helpline phone operatives are the first people who have really tried to help these young people,“ he said.
“Before that, they have been bounced from pillar to post. They haven’t been able to get the help they need from their family, from their friends, from the local authority.
“The helpline support workers are the first who have taken real personal responsibility, who have listened to the young person’s story, really understood it and tried to do everything that they could to help.
“For young people, the confidence of knowing there is actually a person who cares about them is incredibly powerful.”
And because any helpline is only as good as the services to which it can refer people, some of your money will also go to bolstering the way that Centrepoint can help 16 to 25-year-olds with issues that include health support, learning skills and sport.
Being homeless takes its toll on young people, and good health is a huge factor in giving someone the strength to find a home, find a job, and become independent.
With this in mind, Centrepoint works to give young people the support they need to look after their physical and mental health.
Every young person staying with Centrepoint has a health assessment within a month of moving in.
Centrepoint can also offer them:
:: Short- and long-term counselling to deal with the stresses and strains of homelessness
:: Healthy living workshops to help young people learn how to take care of themselves
:: Cookery and nutrition workshops to prepare young people for independence
And now, said Sue Kelly, Centrepoint’s head of health, your money will help Centrepoint get even better results than those it is already achieving.
She said: “Young people who have had health support from Centrepoint are 21 per cent more likely to get into their preferred education and training. Thanks to the appeal, we can put more money into these services.”
Learning and skills
For young people hoping to escape homelessness for good, a job is almost as important as a home. Yet 40 per cent of those referred to Centrepoint have no qualifications when they arrive. The disruption to their education caused by homelessness is one of the biggest barriers they face.
Centrepoint can offer young people one-to-one sessions to help them improve their basic maths and English skills. It can help with work experience, expert advice and job skills workshops to prepare them for a future career.
The charity’s Lifewise and Moneywise programmes also help young people get to grips with vital life skills that might be taken for granted by those whose upbringings have not been blighted by homelessness.
Homelessness can prevent young people from learning how to pay bills, manage their money and even cook. Centrepoint will work with young people to give them the life skills they need to be fully prepared for life after homelessness.
Sally Orlopp, Centrepoint’s director of employability and skills, said: “The fact that we can now boost these services for young people is down to the appeal – thank you to everyone for your support.”
Centrepoint Sport engages the young people it works with through a range of activities including football, boxing, dance and fitness.
Its award-winning programmes, from a few days to several months in length, combine physical activity with practical workshop sessions designed to take participants towards education or employment.
For example, the Street Football Association (SFA), part of Centrepoint since 2014, uses sport to help transform the lives of people who have experienced homelessness and social exclusion.
The aim is to inspire players to build their confidence, both on and off the pitch. The emphasis is on personal development, and all levels of footballing ability are catered for.
Those who want to take their football beyond the friendly kickabout level to something a bit more serious will find that they can. Working with professional football clubs, the SFA can give men and women the inspirational opportunity to represent their country or a top team.
Last November, for example, the SFA ran England’s largest ever week-long street football festival, working with 100 players from ten nations, all of whom had experienced homelessness or social exclusion.
Gareth Parker, Centrepoint’s head of sport, said: “Engaging in sport gives belief to young people who are in the process of overcoming tremendous barriers to education, employment and independent living.
“We use sport as not just a tool for engagement, but also the vehicle for teaching important life skills. Thanks to the appeal and our generous partners, we will be able to transform the lives of even more young people.”
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