This month, we are happy and grateful to announce that Nicola Hardwood is our guest writer. Nicola Hardwood is Associate Director – Prevention at Depaul UK.
I’d like you to imagine something. A teenager is thrown out of the family home after months of arguing with his stepfather. He couch-surfs, staying with friends for a while until eventually, he runs out of options. He confides in his college tutor, explaining that he has nowhere to go, and no one to turn to. This is a point in his life where two very different paths can be taken.
This is where Nightstop steps in. Nightstop services place young people at risk of homelessness in the homes of trained volunteer hosts. These hosts provide a meal, a safe place to sleep, and help to restore a young person’s faith in humanity.
Nightstop has been running for over 30 years in the UK, and last year the first North American Nightstop opened in York Region, Ontario. We have long known that as well as providing crucial shelter to someone in their hour of need, Nightstop does so much more. In 2018, we commissioned research to examine the wider social value of Nightstop services.
That research resulted in a piece of work called More Than Bednights – and its findings offered concrete proof for some of the hunches we had about how Nightstop helps.
The impact a stay with Nightstop can have on young people is significant, and includes a reduced risk of experiencing harm, improved sleep quality and improved ability to eat healthily. Young people gain practical skills like cooking, improve relationships with family members and develop greater emotional intelligence by staying with different people and adapting to different social situations.
We also looked to understand what the social value created by Nightstop is. We developed hypothetical case studies examining the social value created when Nightstop helps a young person to improve their mental health, when it helps a young person into employment and when it improves their physical safety.
The case studies identified savings made to the state by improvements in these areas and determined how much credit Nightstop could take for the changes. Linking these savings to the number of people supported by Nightstop UK in 2017, the evaluation found that around £4million of social value could be attributed to the Nightstop network in the UK.
The full report and case studies can be found here. It clearly shows that Nightstop has a significant value beyond providing shelter, and that despite being a short-term emergency intervention, can have a lasting impact on the young people it supports.
The report refers to the cost of helping a young person in the UK. For example, costs considered include what it costs the public purse when a young person must access emergency healthcare, is arrested or is rehoused. Despite this, we believe that the key findings still have relevance in Canada. Nightstop is more than a safe place to stay for one night. The evaluation shows that it also helps young people to get into work, improve their health and develop their independence. These savings to the state may differ somewhat from country to country, but the social value of Nightstop is clear.
For the young man at the start of this piece, he found a safe place to sleep that night through Nightstop, but he also ate a healthy meal he helped the host cook. He had a good night’s sleep. He started to talk about the college course he wanted to do with his Nightstop co-ordinator. He started to regain his trust in others. His night with Nightstop was more than a bednight.
Do you want to become a guest writer?
You are working on the homelessness issue and you want to become a guest writer? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d be happy to publish your story.