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Bristol pilot scheme expands

June 27 2013
Nightstop hopes to have 10 host households by the end of June.

A pilot project to house rough sleepers in families’ spare rooms is hoping to expand to 10 host households by the end of June.

Bristol Nightstop will offer rooms to young people aged 16–24 who are at risk of becoming homeless. May was a busy month for the scheme, with nine families applying to become hosts.

To be accepted, families are paid two visits from Nightstop workers, and must pass background checks and a training session to make sure they are ready to host vulnerable young people.

The project’s website admits that “it can take some time” for families to be accepted on to the scheme, but says the benefit each family can make for young people is “immeasurable”.

The scheme is part-funded by the Homeless Transition Fund, which is itself supported by the Department for Communities and Local Government.

Under the scheme, rough sleepers arrive at a family home at 7pm and get an evening meal, followed by breakfast the next day. They then leave the house at 8am the next morning.

Although this project is still small scale, there are 40 similar ones around the UK, with 700 families offering rooms to rough sleepers.

The manager of Bristol Nightstop, Matt Dowse, said: “It’s a tried and tested model that’s used across the country and, of course, anybody entering into this kind of project would be thinking ‘why would I do that?’”

“What we are about is trying to show people you can do it and you can do it in a safe way.”

The project is not aimed to solving long-term problems but would help “stopping a person getting into a cycle of homelessness,” he added.

The manager of the local Wild Goose drop-in centre, Alan Goddard, welcomed the Nightstop scheme, pointing out that Bristol has a real problem with young people sleeping rough. “Myself and three colleagues went onto the street all night on a Wednesday and found 19 homeless people living on the streets...

“There’s so many more below the surface, and one of the great things about Nightstop is that it targets young people,” he said.