Helping put roofs over those without

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KAY TAYLOR speaks to Leyland’s homeless organisations to find out how they cope with demand from young people around the Christmas period.

‘We have enough presents, but food parcels are still needed’

More than 30 young people turned to a Leyland homeless charity for help last week.

Key, an organisation based at the Leyland Youth and Community Centre in West Paddock, sees hundreds of people aged between 16 and 25 coming through its doors throughout the year, but this winter has been particularly significant.

Service Manager Ursula Patten says Christmas is normally a quiet time of year for the charity, which acts as a drop-in centre for people looking for somewhere to live.

But she has been surprised by the number of young people looking for help this December.

“We don’t normally have an increase around Christmas,” she said.

“We often find that families and friends make a particular effort at this time of year, with it being the season of goodwill.

“Having said that, we saw 31 young people at drop-in last week in a variety of situations.”

She added: “In partnership with other organisations, Key works very hard to ensure that the outcome is positive for these young people, and is successful in the majority of cases.

“This could be by helping a young person to return home with the help of mediation, or finding young people a place in supported accommodation.

“It is true to say that there is not always an immediate answer, and some young people find themselves sleeping on friend’s floors or with nowhere to stay.”

As well as seeing more people in need at this time of year, the charity also sees a boost in donations from the community.

Enough Christmas presents have now been given to Key for those who may not get a gift next Tuesday.

Volunteers are still hoping to receive more food to help fill the Christmas food parcels though, and Ursula says that more could be done to raise funds in the New Year.

She said: “It would be of great value to Key if people wanted to donate non-perishable food, as for some young people this is vital.

“And if anyone wanted to fund raise for Key or to join its Lottery, we would love to hear from them.

“As ever, it is always a challenge to ensure that services continue to be provided to this vulnerable group.”

Call the centre on 01772 625597 if you would like to help.

‘Family breakdowns are a big factor’

Some young people will be waking up on Christmas Day in the home of a host family.

The charity SLEAP, based in Leyland Lane, finds emergency accommodation for people aged between
16 and 25 who have nowhere else to go, and there are currently nine host families operating in Leyland.

It also provides a Supported Lodgings Scheme for between six to nine people at a time, which offers medium-term accommodation of up to two years to enable young people to live more independently until they can be referred to a housing association.

Service manager Colin Naylor says the dark winter months mean that more people are turning to the charity for help, and are usually referred there by other organisations such as Key, the council, Help the Homeless and Barnardo’s.

“The cold weather makes a big difference,” he said.

“Generally speaking, we deal with people who have been on the streets or living with friends, and we place them with a host family.

“We have 17 host families in total – some take the homeless people in for a night or two, and others have young
people with them for a few weeks.

“We have an emergency scheme which can provide accommodation for someone from between one night to two weeks, while they await mediation from another organisation, for example.”

He added: “There can be a number of reasons for young people finding themselves with nowhere to go at night.

“Family breakdowns are a big factor, and sometimes the young people have only one parent or none at all because of a death in the family.

“We don’t look to place blame; it could be the young person’s problem or the parents’, but we just see if we can help.”

Now in its 20th year, SLEAP was set up as the ‘Leyland Churches Homeless Project’, and around half of the host families are from the church community.

The charity is funded by South Ribble Council and donations from the public, and as with Key, SLEAP finds that communities are more generous around the festive season.

The charity also hosts a special annual Games Day, which this year will be held in between Christmas and the New Year.

“It’s something we do with host families and the young people,” Colin said.

“Often, the young people don’t have many friends, so it’s a good way for them to meet other people who are going through the same things.”

‘It is anticipated that the numbers of homeless cases will continue to increase’

In cases where entire families, or people aged over 25 are involved, South Ribble Council also helps to find emergency accommodation while homeless people get back on their feet.

In October, the council spent more than £2,000 paying a hotel for homeless placements.

And its spending budget at the end of August showed that it spent £13,000 more than it expected to on emergency accommodation for households presenting as homeless.

A council spokesman said: “As it is anticipated that the numbers of homeless cases will continue to increase, all indications are that there will be an overspend on this budget at the end of the year.”

Although hotels and bed and breakfasts are seen as a last resort, the council also provides temporary accommodation such as hostels or flats.

In the longer term, it can refer people to housing associations.

Those classed as priority cases include:

- pregnant women, a parent with a child or children aged under 16

- those who are homeless due to an emergency such as a flood or fire

- those who are homeless due to violence or the threat of violence.

For general enquiries, call 01772 421491.