Housing

The homeowners offering homeless people a place to stay

Nightstop lets people volunteer to offer young people with nowhere to stay a safe home. As the cost of living crisis bites, hosts are urging more to step up.

Nightstop helping homeless people

Lindsay and David played a role in setting up Nightstop in Bury, Greater Manchester, after they were left with spare bedrooms when their children left home. Image: Depaul UK

Would you open your home to a person who finds themselves homeless?

With warnings of more people losing their homes in the face of a cost of living crisis, there are plenty of suggestions of how to fix the systemic problems that drive the issue. Build more affordable homes, give people enough cash through wages to afford a home and the support they need to keep it.

But direct action to offer up spare rooms and homes to people who need a place to stay is rarer.

That action has been the bedrock of the response to refugees displaced by the Ukraine crisis. But it is possible for people around the UK with space to spare to offer up a room to people facing homelessness through a service called Nightstop.

Funded by Depaul UK, Nightstop has been running since 1987 and has local services in 30 locations around the UK, including English cities like Birmingham, Newcastle and London as well as Scottish capital Edinburgh, Anglesey in Wales and Guernsey.

Last year the network saw around 400 people offering young people facing homelessness a place to stay, totalling more than 6,000 safe nights of accommodation.

Volunteers sign up and – once assessed by Depaul UK – can receive a call to offer a home for the night when a young person is referred by a partner organisation like a charity, college or social services.

Depaul carries out background checks on both hosts and guests before matching them and guests can stay anywhere from a single night or three weeks with the idea being to offer short-term accommodation while longer-term options are found.

For Lindsay, 62, and David, 63, from Bury, Greater Manchester, the service is a good way to make use of bedrooms vacated by the couple’s three children.

Former children’s services worker Lindsay and retired firefighter David, both in their early 60s, first volunteered for the Nightstop service 15 years ago. They found it didn’t exist in Bury and played a role in introducing it to the town, located nine miles outside Manchester city centre. 

“When I learned about the Nightstop service through work, I thought it was brilliant. Young people become homeless for so many different reasons,” said Lindsay. “Some of our guests have gone through very difficult experiences, in many cases there has been a family fall out and some of our guests have been refugees.

“We’ve been lucky enough to have hosted over 14 guests so far. Giving a young person a safe and welcoming home for a few nights while something more permanent is being sorted out for them, really isn’t an issue for us at all, and we have met some lovely young people and gained a lot from the experience.”

David added: “We would recommend being a Nightstop volunteer to anyone who likes young people and has a room to spare, it’s a small thing for us to do, but the difference it makes to the younger generation is huge.” 

On the other end of the age spectrum, 35-year-old Polly Seward found out about Nightstop on the Stacey Dooley-fronted BBC documentary The Young and Homeless in 2018.

She decided to offer up her spare room after her friend moved out of the two-bedroom flat in Hackney she had bought a year earlier.

Polly was offered training on safeguarding and supporting young people as well as undergoing a DBS check while Depaul also visited her flat to make sure it was suitable.

Nightstop helping homeless people
Polly Seward got involved with Nightstop after learning about the service on a Stacey Dooley BBC documentary. Image: Depaul UK

Now she lets the charity know what days she is available every month and accommodates guests for one or two nights at a time.

“In the past, I’ve let out my room on Airbnb but this feels much safer because of the amount of support you receive and background checks on both parties,” said Polly.

“It’s one of very few volunteering roles where you can see the difference you’re making right in that very moment. So far I’ve had the pleasure of hosting 10 young people.

“I’m always struck by the courage and strength these young people are having to find just to get through the day. Being able to show a little kindness feels like a privilege.

“I’ve often felt helpless walking past people who are homeless and wished I could do something useful – now, in a small but very real way, I can.”

For Andrew Jackson, Nightstop helped him to get his life back on track. He has gone from rough sleeping to being housed and holding down a job as a bricklayer in the space of seven months.

The 31-year-old found himself on the streets after moving back to his native Middlesbrough when his relationship broke down in Blackpool.

He used Nightstop on seven occasions and credits the service with helping him to transform his life and reconnect with his four-year-old son.

“Things were going down and down. I felt like things were on a slippery slope going fast,” said Jackson. 

“Nightstop helped me with somewhere to stay with nice people. I’m working now. Everything has just gone back to normal. Things would have been a bit worse without it. It’s hard from having no fixed address and having nothing. I had nowhere to keep my tools so I couldn’t get a job. It put me in the right direction.

“The people themselves were an absolute godsend. One of the people I stayed with, Martin, was a nice bloke who really helped me with finding work.”

Article continues below

Current vacancies...

Search jobs

Jackson told the Big Issue he had even received support through Nightstop to cover his first month’s rent on a property to help him off the streets. 

He added: “I was just really grateful. Just with how fast they helped me and how fast things could have gone wrong.

“They were always on the phones, always checking to see if I was alright. They were good company and they really helped me out.” 

As part of the agreement to take in a youngster, hosts are required to offer an evening meal and breakfast to their guests and can claim back the expense of the food.

As energy bills rise and inflation continues to push up prices, so will the cost of opening up homes for people who need it.

But that has not deterred hosts Lindsay or Polly from vowing to offer up their homes in the future.

“We don’t think that the costs incurred in providing a young person with a hot meal and a safe and warm place to stay is going to be prohibitive even though everything is going up so much,” said Lindsay.

Polly added: “You can claim expenses per night so I’ve never felt out of pocket.”

Both were in agreement that the crisis means more young people will need a place to stay in the months ahead.

Lindsay added: “It is likely that more young people might find themselves needing a home to stay, so all the more reason to host if you can. “

To offer up your home as a place to stay with Nightstop head here

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
Labour promises wave of new towns if elected. But will they make a dent in UK's housing crisis?
Angela Rayner announces Labour new town plan
Housing

Labour promises wave of new towns if elected. But will they make a dent in UK's housing crisis?

Over 90,000 households threatened with no-fault evictions since Tories promised to ban them
Renters angry at no-fault evictions, Renters Reform Bill delay and a lack of rent controls
RENTING

Over 90,000 households threatened with no-fault evictions since Tories promised to ban them

Starmer warned over glaring omission in Labour's six general election pledges: 'I'm disappointed'
Housing crisis

Starmer warned over glaring omission in Labour's six general election pledges: 'I'm disappointed'

Scottish government is declaring a national housing emergency – but what does it actually mean?
Scottish first minister John Swinney
Housing

Scottish government is declaring a national housing emergency – but what does it actually mean?

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know