The successful launch of the first nationwide helpline for 16 to 25-year-olds facing homelessness has only been possible thanks to the extraordinary generosity of Independent readers.
Your donations have helped push the fundraising total beyond £3m, giving the helpline the firm financial foundations it needs to be able to keep lifting vulnerable young people out of crisis for years to come.
Evgeny Lebedev, the proprietor of The Independent and of our campaign partner the London Evening Standard, said: “I'm delighted to be launching the Helpline with the Duke of Cambridge today.
“After all, it was his call to arms in November that spurred us on to launch the campaign. Youth homelessness is an unacceptable blight in modern Britain. The helpline will save lives, and rescue countless more from vulnerable and perilous situations.
“None of it would have been possible without the hard work of hundreds of people behind the scenes – Centrepoint, Evening Standard and Independent staff, as well as the thousands of readers who have given so generously, so I'd like to thank them.”
Praising the helpline campaign, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: “The incredible response to this appeal shows people’s determination to make sure that homelessness has no place in a 21st century Britain.
“I’m pleased readers have donated in such numbers. Together, by standing up for each other like this we can rebuild and transform Britain so no one and no community is left behind.”
Lib Dem leader Tim Farron added: “Thanks to the generosity of those who’ve supported this appeal, many lives will be changed for the better. This helpline will be crucial for those who have been let down time and time again.”
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said: “The overwhelming response to The Independent’s fundraising appeal is a tribute to how concerned people are about this problem. Centrepoint‘s new helpline will be a lifeline to many vulnerable young people.”
Prince William will now launch the helpline just three months after he issued his call to arms at a Centrepoint fundraising gala by declaring: “The scale of youth homelessness in this country is now shameful – it must not be ignored.”
As our campaign launched in November, the Prince gave his wholehearted backing to the idea of the Young and Homeless Helpline. This, he said, was “the chance to save young lives”.
Now, the Prince will be there to sit alongside an experienced adviser and listen in as they take the first call to the helpline.
The enthusiasm of the Prince, who followed his mother Diana, Princess of Wales, in becoming the patron of Centrepoint, was echoed by frontline workers at the youth homelessness charity itself.
They said that against a backdrop of austerity cuts, the helpline was “a lifeline” that couldn’t come a moment too soon.
Centrepoint’s own research showed that up to one in three young people were being turned away unaided by English local councils when they sought help with homelessness.
And as the campaign progressed, young people helped by Centrepoint revealed the desperate measures to which they resorted while homeless.
They spoke of being cold, lonely and too frightened to sleep as they took shelter from the streets by staying surrounded by drunks on a night bus. One spoke of the desperation that impelled her, as a teenager, to form relationships with abusive, drug-taking men just to get off the streets.
Our campaign was run in conjunction with the i newspaper as well as the Evening Standard, and readers of all three titles responded in droves.
At the start of February, we were able to announce that the total had passed £3m, after less than three months of campaigning. And we can now reveal that as the helpline launches, the appeal total has hit £3,250,000.
Seyi Obakin, the chief executive of Centrepoint, who admitted to being “overwhelmed” by the support of readers, said: “Today, with the launch of the Centrepoint Helpline, we take a major step towards realising our ambitious goal to end youth homelessness.
“Intervening early and decisively to ensure that young people have the right advice and support can change a young person’s future. That is what we now aim to do with the Centrepoint Helpline.”
His sentiments were echoed by Samia Meah, 27, who was helped by Centrepoint after becoming homeless aged 16.
“The helpline will be a game changer,” she said, “The first point of call for vulnerable young people facing homelessness, and an incredible resource to help people who don’t know where to turn.
“We are so grateful to everyone who donated, and to The Independent for running an appeal that shone a light on the issues surrounding youth homelessness.”
The helpline will ensure that wherever they are in the country, a young person will be able to call the Freephone number 0808 800 0661 and get assistance.
Phoning or emailing the helpline will allow young people to plug into Centrepoint’s network of contacts and partner organisations all over the UK to get local, on the ground assistance.
A “groundbreaking” partnership between Centrepoint and youth advisory charity The Mix will also allow callers to access The Mix’s experts for support on a whole host of issues connected with youth homelessness, including mental health and family breakdown.
“The helpline will be the difference between young people living with the threat of sleeping rough hanging over them and them getting the support they need,” said Matt Carlisle, 49, who during the campaign told of his own journey from teenage homelessness to Centrepoint regional manager.
“I know what the helpline would have meant to me when I was younger: having access to that free, anonymous and non-judgemental advice when you’re facing impossible decisions could have changed things for me sooner.
“We’re so grateful to Independent readers for their part in this campaign. It’s completely blown me away.”
Young people aged 16-25 who are homeless or at risk of homelessness can phone the Centrepoint Helpline on 0808 800 0661
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