How a Salford student is supporting young people at risk of homelessness during Covid-19

Categories: School of Health and Society

Owen Pamphilion (pictured below), second year Learning Disabilities Nursing and Social Work (Integrated Practice) student at the University of Salford, has recently been on placement with DePaul UK, a charity which works alongside young people who are facing homelessness in order to provide accommodation, practical support and wellbeing resources.

Owen Pamphilion

During his time with the charity, Owen has primarily worked on the Nightstop service, providing emergency accommodation for young people aged 16 -25 to stop them having to sleep on the streets.

Owen explains: “The program works by placing a young person in crisis with a volunteer who has a spare room for the night. This means the young person has somewhere safe and warm to sleep, rather than being left on the streets.”

For many young people, arguing with their parents is the number one reason why they may leave home, and the first 24 hours is crucial to preventing them becoming at risk of long-term homelessness.

In 2019, volunteers provided 9,103 safe nights of accommodation to 937 people across the Nightstop network. However, the impact of Covid-19 on the service has been dramatic.

Owen said: “Because of Covid-19, there are fewer people able to host someone. Before the pandemic we had 15 volunteers actively hosting, but now this has gone down to just four, largely due to many of our hosts being at high risk themselves. This means we’re now having to turn many young people away as we just have nowhere for them to go. When we get a referral that we can’t place, it’s so hard to have to tell that person that there is just nothing we can do to help.”

When a volunteer host can be found, the young person may spend up to a week in their home before moving to stay with another volunteer. During this process, Nightstop works with social services and housing teams to provide a long-term placement for the young person. It is also possible that they may be able to return home after this time, or go to live with other family members or close friends.

To ensure everyone’s safety, there is a thorough referral process which enables Nightstop to choose young people who are low risk, and the charity always asks for at least two references. Hosts undergo a DBS check and training before they take on their first guest.

Throughout each stay, Owen keeps in contact with the host and the young person to make sure that there are no problems. He tells us: “I really wanted to take up this placement as it allows me to work with people who are often forgotten and may be discriminated against based on the perception and prejudices people have about homelessness. Many of the young people I work with are a similar age to myself, so I can empathise with their situations and hopefully help them get their lives on track.”

The course Owen is studying at the University of Salford, Learning Disabilities Nursing and Social Work (Integrated Practice), is unusual in offering students the opportunity to study for, and to register as, both a nurse (Learning Disabilities) and a social worker once they graduate.

It has given Owen a new perspective on the kinds of challenges many face. “This placement has destroyed any preconceptions I had about people who are homeless. It doesn’t take much for someone to go from having a home to being on the street – it can be a fight with a family member or flatmate, an argument with your partner or even losing your job as a result of Covid-19 and suddenly you are out of your house,” he says.

“This placement has shown me the amount of work that goes on through social services to try and help as many people as possible. But so much more is still needed. I know I am picking up valuable knowledge and skills for my future career, but more importantly, I now understand how easily everything can change and you can end up in need of help yourself, and so how important it is to help others as much as I can.”

Anyone interested in the Nightstop service can find out more at https://uk.depaulcharity.org/nightstop/

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