- Nightstop Network Manager Shares Memories of 14 Years Working for The Youth Homelessness Service
Fourteen Years With Nightstop
October 18th, 2017
Highs, Lows, And Hopes For The Future. Network Manager Ian Shares Memories From Fourteen Years Of Working With Nightstop
This month volunteer-led emergency accommodation service Nightstop UK is celebrating 30 years of helping young homeless people.
As part of our celebrations we’ve been busy interviewing hosts, young people and staff to hear their memories and experiences of the groundbreaking service.
This week we sit down with Nightstop Network Manager Ian Forster to find out more about his role and 14 years of working for Nightstop.
How long have you worked for Nightstop?
I have worked for Nightstop UK for a long time, over 14 years now and I still love it!
Prior to this role, I managed Bradford Nightstop a fantastic service that has been providing emergency accommodation since 1993. I still remember my first day with Nightstop UK, it was 1 March 2003.
I am now the Nightstop Network Manager and I oversee the Nightstop services across the UK working closely with Nicola, Head of Nightstop UK, Ben who is our Nightstop Network Officer and Shelley, our Communications Coordinator.
What was Nightstop like when you first joined the service?
Nightstop UK was a very small independent charity based in Shipley, West Yorkshire, and it served a network of around 41 local Nightstop services, although not all had paid staff members.
There were at that time two Nightstop services run completely by volunteers who did everything! Four other services were also in development.
Describe your typical day with Nightstop.
My role is so wide, varied and interesting that there isn’t what I would call a typical day.
However some of my time is spent carrying out Quality Assessment visits to help ensure that all of the accredited Nightstop services are providing a great service to guests and volunteers.
I am also responsible for growing the network so that more young people do not have to sleep in an unsafe place. This can mean speaking to local authorities or organisations who have identified a need in their area.
Every year Nightstop networks come together for a national conference so I am currently beginning to organise the next one which will be in Manchester in February 2018. I am also helping to plan Nightstop’s 30th birthday celebration at the Speaker’s House, House of Commons on 31 October.
In late 2017, a new Nightstop service will open in Manchester so I am also working with the Depaul Nightstop team in Greater Manchester to develop the new service.
How has your role developed since you started?
My role has seen lots of changes, lots of frustrations, lots of new developments and lots of job satisfaction.
One of the most significant changes being when Nightstop UK joined Depaul in 2007. Before Depaul agreed to the merger, Nightstop UK was facing funding challenges. Thanks to our wonderful supporters we now have significant investment in Nightstop UK and it this will enable the team to develop the network to ultimately provide more beds for young people.
We are striving to have a Nightstop service in every town and city where there is a need and our aim is to have 50 percent coverage of the UK by 2020.
Why do you personally think Nightstop is important?
Nightstop is important because it is such a simple solution to a complex problem. It is a community response to a community need.
Not only do young people have somewhere safe to stay with same day access, but the community of volunteers who make Nightstop happen are great advocates for the young people who stay with them. Nightstop volunteers are doing their bit to ensure we all support young people in a time of crisis.
As part of my role, I get to speak to young people regularly about their experience of using Nightstop. It never ceases to amaze me the difference just one night can make to the young people we work with.
I remember young people saying: “I don’t know what I would have done without Nightstop” or “the hosts were great and they made me feel safe and welcome”. One young person said to me: “It’s the first time I have had an actual conversation without being shouted at.”
Thirty years on what is the current outlook for young people experiencing homelessness?
Sadly, I think the situation for young people is getting worse.
Continual cuts in statutory services can only mean that the voluntary sector has to try and plug some of the gaps left when services are reduced or closed altogether. Funding within the voluntary sector has become much more competitive as organisations look to raise the necessary income to meet increasing demand.
That said, Nightstop services are providing more now than ever to young people who are in need of a safe place to stay.
What changes have you noticed to Nightstop over the years?
One of the main changes has been the increase in size and scope of Nightstop services.
Ten years ago we had more than 45 Nightstop services but only providing 6,500 bed-nights a year. Now 33 Nightstops provide over 12,000 bed-nights a year. Many Nightstops now work across authorities and have their service commissioned by the local authorities in the areas they operate.
Demand for the service continues to grow year on year. The average stay for a young person in Nightstop last year was nine nights.
What are Nightstop hosts like?
Our Nightstop hosts are very different, young, middling and older!
Some working, some retired, some host on their own, some as a family, some as a couple. Some have big houses with lots of bedrooms, some with one spare room. What is typical in my experience of volunteer hosts is that they do not see their volunteering as a ”big deal”, invariably they say to me, when asked why they host: “I have a spare room, why would I not?”
All Nightstop volunteers want to make a difference, they are kind, caring, very patient, flexible and, all without exception, are motivated to support young people when they are at their most vulnerable.
What are the young people who use Nightstop like?
Every young person who uses Nightstop is different but we do know that half come to Nightstop as a result of family breakdown.
Those who use Nightstop are incredibly grateful for the service and are very positive about the role Nightstop has played in their life.
Are there any stories that stand out from your time in Nightstop?
One Nightstop service had a young woman go into labour while she was staying with a host. That was a first!
On a personal level, each time we support a new development and receive a phone call to say: “We have placed our first young person” that’s a triumph.
There have been huge amounts of work over many years with a number of false dawns in trying to develop a Nightstop in Greater Manchester. However, we have just received funding support which means we are now able to launch a much-needed service in the area.
What would you say to somebody who was thinking about hosting?
Nightstop is a very safe service for young people; it is equally safe for volunteer hosts. The safety of both is paramount to the service.
All Nightstop services are accredited by Nightstop UK and, therefore, have to meet stringent quality standard requirements including how young people are assessed prior to placement. We need to make sure the placement is right for the young person’s situation. The training hosts receive is excellent and Nightstop staff are there to support them at all times. All Nightstops run a 24-hour helpline.
You have to put yourself in the young person’s shoes. They have nowhere else to stay and they are always so grateful that a stranger will allow them to stay in their home for free.
What would you like to say to our incredible funders and supporters?
The money you have given to Nightstop services enables them to keep young people safe from harm. It’s as simple as that.
To anyone who might be thinking about supporting us, please donate so we can deliver Nightstop in more towns and cities and help more young people!
Do you have a message for Nightstop on its 30th Birthday?
Yes. Happy Birthday!
The network continues to grow and that is great news for young people who need our services now more than ever before.
Thank you for all the hard work that Nightstop staff and volunteers do often under difficult circumstances day in, day out, to ensure Nightstop wherever it is in the UK (or Canada) is the best it can be and is a safe for all young people and volunteers alike.
I am immensely proud to be part of the wider Nightstop team. Together we can continue to make a huge difference to lives of many young people in our communities.
Nightstop relies on our generous supporters and volunteers. If you'd like to find out more about Nightstop and how you can help click here.