We are halfway through Poverty and Homelessness Awareness Week and continuing to look at the work done by organisations to help vulnerable young people who are dealing with issues around homelessness. New Horizon Youth Centre is a youth crisis centre in Chalton Street, Camden, London. They see up to 3000 young people a year and are open 7 days a week. Kids turn up hungry, homeless and with serious life traumas.

The centre has been awarded several grants from BBC Children in Need since 1999 with the latest one focusing on late afternoon activities for vulnerable teenagers facing issues around homelessness, leaving care and youth offending. The Positive Futures Youth Programme catches many of the teens that have rocked up to the centre during the day and is split into a Young Men’s and Young Women’s Group. Sessions are informal and include sport and trips, anger management, cooking on a budget, sexual exploitation awareness and the criminal justice system.

Teenagers might come through the crisis doors having lost their way but after a CV workshop, cooking class, a chat with the nurse and counselling plan they leave with a bit more hope and a realistic plan – not to mention a mean recipe for chocolate brownies.
 

Janet from New Horizons Youth Centre

 

Janet Matthews supports both the crisis centre drop-ins and the regulars to get them the right benefits, develop their CVs and let young people know about job fairs and opportunities. She asked one young person, Annalise* 18, to describe her first week at New Horizon Youth Centre.

Monday:
It was a bitter cold September morning and I stood with about 10 others outside the centre. No eye contact, I just kept my head down. It didn’t open for another hour but sleeping rough means I’m up early. Last night it was the back of the local supermarket. I crawled behind the bins, out of sight where it was quiet and there was some heat coming from the ventilators. I’ve never been alone like this and I’m scared.
The doors opened and everyone went in. I got a tour of the centre from Janet and she gave me a coat and gloves plus a hot drink. There was so much going on I was confused but my fingers were thawing and I was ok to just sit and watch.
I was embarrassed to talk about what’s going on but I tried…family problems, they don’t want me staying on in college because my family say I need to get a job to help pay the bills, kicked me out the house…police found me sleeping rough and told me about the centre.
The Housing Team found me a place to stay for a few nights, with a host family from the local area. Janet told me to come back tomorrow morning and gave me some bus tickets so I’m not heading back to the supermarket.

Tuesday:
Today was hard. I had to talk to a counsellor, about how I don’t care about things and sometimes think about harming myself. About feeling alone and missing my family. I had a go at knitting with one of the ‘knitting grannies,’ I wasn’t very good.

Wednesday:
I didn’t feel like coming today. The self defence workshop was good. I hadn’t really thought about what might happen, sleeping rough. I met Evie who has been coming here for a month as she ran away from her home in Leeds. She was having family problems and misses her brothers and sisters too.
At the end of the day Housing came with news that they have got me a bed in a shelter for six weeks. I left the centre feeling like things weren’t so bad.

Thursday:
Today we had a session, that’s for people like me who aren’t in college and haven’t got a job. It was a surprise to write down all the things I HAVE done, focus on the positive. I’m going to come to the NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training) classes next week and as I’m interested in events Janet’s going to look for some apprenticeships for me. There is so much out there that I didn’t know about.

Friday:
Cooking today which was chocolate brownies and I helped serve at the pop up crepe stall outside in the market which was funny. Then I did the women’s group session which was about conflict and how to deal with things.

A month later and Janet tells me that Annalise* is now housed in a long term hostel, she is attending weekly sessions with the counsellor, and just recently secured an apprenticeship with Camden for events management. Her mental stability has improved and she continues to come to the centre for support. On her experience at New Horizon Annalise* said:

‘I do not know where I would have been without New Horizons I really believe they saved my life, I am still lonely without my family but can come back here for company and I think I am going to be alright’.
*Not her real name

Janet reported that at least 200 young people come through the doors a week and it’s usually more. I asked her why she does this job and what keeps her motivated:

‘I work with the hardest to reach young people to source education and employment opportunities, doing this job is an honour and a privilege as I get to witness change on a daily basis and always get what I call "goose bump moments" watching young people turn their lives around with my support. I am passionate about young people being given every possible chance to succeed. A quote I once heard and sincerely believe in is do a job you truly love and you will never have to work a day in your life!’

Find out more about the New Horizon Youth Centre here.

 

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