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Preventing Youth Homelessness

Maddie Crossling delves into the workings of SASH, Yorkshire's own charity for supporting the young and homeless

In December 2018, 80 000 young people faced homelessness in Britain. This figure comes from an investigation by the charity, Shelter. It pertains to young people who are homeless or in emergency housing, and is unable to include the amount of those living with their friends, sleeping in their cars or at work, or staying in hotels and hostels, as that is unknown. 

SASH (Safe and Sound Homes) is a registered charity which helps young people aged 18-25 who are at risk of becoming homeless. They are based in North and East Yorkshire, with their head office situated in York. The York branch encompasses Craven, Harrogate, Selby and York. The aim of SASH is to “provide vulnerable young people with a lasting solution to the problems that have led them to become homeless.” Their ambition is that “those we help should never experience homelessness again.”

The charity was established in 1994 by a group of parents in York; they had heard about the first ever Nightstop project, and were concerned that there was a distinct lack of support for young people that were homeless, or were at risk of becoming homeless. The website relates that in the first year alone: “they offered 39 nights of accommodation to young people who had nowhere to go.” Since then, the charity has grown considerably, and they adopted the name SASH in 2009 to reflect this. 

Rather than owning a hostel or some form of accommodation, SASH relies on volunteer hosts who are able to offer a room within their home; this is part of their Nightstop and Supported Lodging services. 

Nightstop is an emergency accommodation service, which the website claims can be arranged “in as little as two hours”; young people are referred to the service by the local authorities, and a host is found in their surrounding area so that their daily life is not disrupted. In 2018 alone, SASH took 301 referrals for Nightstop, and arranged 1457 nights of safe accommodation. 

Supported Lodgings is a long-term service, wherein young people can live with a host for up to two years, while receiving intense support and learning how to live on their own. They have an incredibly high success rate; in 2018, 77 per cent were able to find stable, permanent accommodation, and 90 per cent left the scheme in education, training or employment. 

SASH offers “opportunity, discovery and learning.” Through SASH Active and SASH Enable, they are able to provide disadvantaged young people with experiences and opportunities that they wouldn’t ordinarily have access to, or which will help them to contend with issues of isolation, low self-esteem and mental health. SASH Enable encompasses activities in the local area, such as working alongside the community, while SASH Active allows young people to participate in activities in cities across the country, such as London. 

The York team looks after 30 young people at any given time, requiring approximately 25 hosts to provide housing and support. Most of these are referrals from Housing Options, Children’s Social Care and the Salvation Army, however they also work closely with local schools, colleges and mental health services to provide help for young people as soon as possible. As they aim to keep as many young people in their local area as possible, most of the hosts for this area are located in Harrogate, Selby and York. 

Jenna Goodridge, the SASH Community Fundraiser, agreed to answer several questions on her experiences as an individual working within the charity. Her job is incredibly varied; one day she could be working with a school, another day she could be working with a church. Jenna often deals with individual people, but SASH is a small charity with a small office, so she will often work alongside the youth support workers and young people who come into the office for meetings. This means that she is very well-connected with the inner workings of the charity. 

For Jenna, meeting and working with young people is the most rewarding part of the job. She said, “seeing an actual difference is just amazing; to see someone come into us with so little confidence and so few aspirations, to seeing them at a point where they’re happy and confident and excelling in life.” 

The young people who Jenna deals with are not like the stereotypes or statistics: they are real people. She continues, “for a lot of people, if you say the word homelessness, [it creates] an image of a scruffy looking person  with a sleeping bag and a cardboard box sitting outside a shop. I think the biggest shock is that 99 per cent of the people we deal with are just ordinary young people, just like my nephew; they don’t look different, don’t act different - life has just dealt them a different set of cards, and they’ve come into circumstances where they’re suddenly facing homelessness and unable to cope with that.”

SASH is able to offer help and support to young people that are homeless, and young people that are facing homelessness. There is an important distinction between the two. People don’t have to be rough-sleepers to benefit from SASH, however with the council you need to be officially declared homeless, which means that you have no home. SASH also helps those who have no home, as well as those that are losing their home, those that are living in an unhealthy situation, and those that need the guidance and support that the charity is able to offer. 

Fortunately, York is home to a lot of frontline services which are very good at what they do: Helping the Homeless, Helping Kitchen, Kitchen for Everyone, Food Not Bombs. When someone needs a sandwich, they are there with a sandwich; when someone needs a sleeping bag, they are there with a sleeping 

bag. SASH operates differently, and fulfils a different need. 

Due to this, working with SASH is A slightly different experience to working with other local charities. Jenna summarises, “what people need is a bit more complex, they need a home, they need support, they might need one to one, they might need access to other services.” The service which SASH offers is complicated, they “can’t put a poster up of all the people [they] just fed, or put up a picture of all the people [they] just saved, like the animal charities.” Jenna finishes, “sometimes it takes a little bit more to actually buy into and understand what we do and why it’s so important.” 

SASH have noticed an increase in the number of people contacting them through their website. Jenna commented, “Youth homelessness in particular is a really hidden figure; a lot of people, you won’t know they’re homeless, they’re not in the numbers we have.” 

Luckily, as the number of people accessing SASH increases, so does the support of the community. Jenna added, “what’s really nice is that we have a wide range of hosts in different areas; certain areas are lower than others, but we do quite a big host recruitment campaign. We just did one with First York, [and] had leaflets going out on all the York buses to encourage it.” This means that they are able to provide housing for young people in the same area that they are from to avoid uprooting them. 

While students aren’t typically able to offer this level of community support, there are still many different ways in which they can help SASH, and consequently young people around Yorkshire. Jenna advised, “our websites have some really good things you could download. People think ‘ah, well, you’re only going to raise £40.’ But £40 is enough for us to provide two nights in emergency accommodation. By doing a little get-together with your friends, and raising £40, that means two  young people who were in need and facing homelessness, aren’t going to be, because of you. All those little things do actually make a real big difference because we are such a small charity.” 

SASH already receives a positive response from students. It is hypothesised that this is due to the empathy they have, as they are also young people. Jenna theorises, “I think every young person knows a person, [who] may not have been at risk of homelessness, but has gone through a bit of a hard time.” 

It’s really important for SASH to build and sustain connections with colleges, schools and younger people. Not only does it allow them to find more volunteers and fundraisers, but it also increases awareness of the charity: “If there is a young person that doesn’t know that we’re here, doesn’t know they can get support from us, is currently sleeping on a mate’s sofa and trying to get by like that, they can access our services.”

From 2017 to 2018, SASH helped 335 young people to avoid homelessness, they arranged 1457 safe nights through emergency accommodation, and helped 105 young people continue through the Supported Lodgings scheme. 35 per cent of those helped were under 18 years old. Jenna said: “But statistics aren’t the real story. What matters is the change we bring about for and within each individual.” 

There are many ways to get involved with SASH; as a charity, and due to the nature of their work, they are dependent on volunteers, donations and community involvement. SASH is always looking for more hosts. It is not a position possible for everyone to undertake, but it is one of the most necessary and sought-after roles within the charity. 

SASH “currently have around 80 hosts helping [across] North and East Yorkshire, but sadly [still] occasionally have to turn young people away because there is more demand for places than [they] can offer.” To be a host, all you need is a spare room, and the desire to help young people. SASH provides training, support and payment. 

The charity has a core management team of 28 members, however they rely heavily on their volunteers, making it another key way to get involved. Volunteers are necessary to help plan, organise and execute events, the latter of which could include stewarding, photography or public speaking. Volunteering with SASH is a varied and rewarding experience. In 2018, events supported by the charity volunteers raised over £50 000. 

SASH is the RAG (Raising and Giving) charity for Vanbrugh College, and has been since 2016. Eva Kyriacou, the Vanbrugh RAG representative for 2017-18, commented on her experience working alongside SASH. She chose to be a RAG rep as “I’d been told that it had often been a somewhat neglected role on committee: adding that she “disliked that we as a college weren’t raising the money we could have for SASH and it seemed a waste. I was also aware that there was a demand 

for volunteering opportunities within the college that wasn’t being met so I decided to take 

on the role.”

She found that SASH was “a brilliant charity to work with.” They provide lots of resources necessary for organizing and running fundraising events: leaflets, money boxes, banners, and any information or support necessary. Their enthusiasm to help ensures that the events run smoothly, and raise as much money as possible. It is due to this that Eva would recommend undertaking charity and volunteer work.

She champions: “Any voluntary work you do works on a ‘you get out what you put in’ basis; if you put in the effort, more often than not, you’ll feel rewarded, fulfilled and will have made a big difference. Small actions and lots of people equals big change! If everyone at the University donated £1 to their college charity this year, we’d raise almost £18 000. That’s six times more than was raised last year. The student population can very easily make a big difference.” 

Between April 2018 and April 2019 (the financial year), SASH needs to fundraise £344 600. Jenna said “every year, we need to fundraise around 25 per cent of our income to run our services.” Fundraising is crucial to the charity’s existence, thus people who want to raise money for their workare in high demand. Events previously held to do so include auctions, raffles, coffee mornings and sleepouts. Any amount raised is always appreciated, and put to good use. 

In this same vein, SASH would welcome donations. They can be a one-off donation, or a regular contribution, online or in person. “£10 could pay for bus fares to get a young person to their Nightstop. £18.50 could cover the expenses of a stay in a volunteer host’s home. £100 could help a young person set up home after a stay in Supported Lodgings. £300 could cover the cost of recruiting and training a new volunteer host.”

Jenna said: “These young people thought that they would never have stability, or anyone who would listen to them and help. They leave our service with confidence and aspirations for their future.” 

SASH has optimistic goals for the future. Jenna details, “our overall aim is that we’re no longer needed, that there isn’t a need for people to have emergency accommodation because young people aren’t being at risk of homelessness. But that is quite a long-term goal. The immediate goal is that we continue having funds coming in; within the next year, it’s that all the activities we’re doing now are continuing, our awareness is going higher and there’s enough funds coming in that we can always, always offer some form of support to young people.”

Their next big event is on Friday 5 April; they are organising a Sleepout, at Bootham School, York. Tickets are £10 (or £5 for concessions). This price includes refreshments, live music, competitions and breakfast in the morning. They are also asking everyone that signs up to fundraise or donate a minimum amount of £100 (£50 for concessions). More information about the event is available on their Facebook page. 

If you need to contact SASH as a young person in York, go to the Salvation Army; this is your ‘homelessness presentation’, after which they will be able to make a referral. If you need emergency accommodation outside of office hours, you should contact the Emergency Duty Team on 01609 780 780. 

If you wish to volunteer, fundraise or donate, you can contact SASH via email at info@sash-uk.org.uk.Alternatively, you can give them a call on 01904 652 043. Furthermore, they have information on their website (sash-uk.org.uk), as well as a mailing list that you can sign up to, in order to help you stay informed about the charity’s work. 

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