Making an emergency stop

Cath Sterndale of Buxton Nightstop
Cath Sterndale of Buxton Nightstop
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In the last three years 40 per cent of homelessness cases in the High Peak have been people aged 16 to 24.

Reporter Christina Massey takes a look at the High Peak Nightstop, which has been offering homeless young people a safe place to spend the night for ten years.

Most people probably can’t imagine what it is like to be completely desperate – to have no safe place to sleep and nothing to eat.

If we got into trouble we could rely on our savings, or our friends and families to help us out. But what if we had no savings, no family and no one to turn to?

It’s not something we like to think about, but it is the bitter reality for a growing number of young people.

So who do you turn to when you have nowhere to go but the streets? Cath Sterndale and her team at High Peak Nightstop.

The charity, based in the United Reformed Church, in Hardwick Square East, Buxton, offers emergency accommodation for people who are desperately in need.

“We are not a hostel and we are not a solution to homelessness,” Cath tells me.

“We are a short sharp intervention in time of crisis.”

Managed by a steering group made up of representatives from the local churches, police, council and other interested parties, the Nightstop was set up in 2003 identifying the need for an emergency homelessness service in the area.

“Before that there was nothing in the High Peak,” Cath, project coordinator, says.

The charity provides hosted accommodation for young people aged 16 to 25 either in the homes of volunteers or, less often, in bed and breakfasts.

“We have volunteers who take them in there own home, provide them with a nice bedroom, a chance to relax, have a shower, watch a bit of TV,” Cath explains.

“It’s a one night at a time provision. We try to get them more settled as soon as the right agencies can get involved and work with them.”

The team at the Nightstop are keen to stop people becoming dependant on them, so will point people in the direction of a long term solution, be it from the Citizen’s Advice Bureau, Amber Trust or other agencies.

“We have a lot of young people that are ‘sofa surfers’, who stay with friends and sleep wherever they can,” Cath says. “That can cause problems because they need to be fed so a lot of people are now asking them to move out, simply because they can’t accept the burden of feeding them.

“A lot of it is family break down or partnership splits where they are asked to leave at very short notice.

“Sometimes it’s that they are unable to maintain tenancy.”

Two years ago, the charity launched it’s Loan A Tent scheme, in which people can borrow a pop–up tent, which they can pitch in a volunteer’s garden. This scheme is open to all ages and has seen an increase in the number of people using it.

“Before we would have one or two people using it once a month, but over the past year we have seen it used more and more frequently,” Cath states.

“At any one time we can have between one and five people in tents.”

In November 2011, the Nightstop changed it’s charitable status, allowing it to set up a food bank.

Now between 4.30pm and 5.30pm Monday to Friday people can pick up food items from the church.

“We have really got to work hard to break down the stigma of using a food bank,” she says.

“We have people in tears, a lot of them are so embarrassed about having to come.

“We have people asking to come down when it’s dark – they are worried that their family will find out.”

Despite the mixed feelings people have at using the service, it helps them when they need it most.

Cath hands me a note, given to her by a woman helped by the food bank which sums up the effect it has on people’s lives.

It simply reads: “Thank you so very much for your help this week and for the kindness you gave me in my hour of need.”