Caring in Bristol is currently running an appeal to support the new emergency youth shelter due to open its doors later this year. With plans fully in place, we’re laser-focused on making sure that the service is effective from day one; it will fill a gap in resources for vulnerable young Bristolians, enabling them to survive a housing emergency and thrive as their life gets back on track.
We caught up with Holly and Shanta, both experienced youth practitioners within Project Z, the Caring in Bristol project that will manage the shelter, and its team of staff and volunteers. The approach that the team takes in its work has evolved over several years. It has proven itself to be effective in enabling young people who have experienced homelessness to gain the confidence and skills to move on and succeed.
Their approach places the young person at the heart of the work. Shanta tells us, “We put a lot of effort into building a trusting supportive relationship with young people and go at their pace. It’s led by them; they’re in control of it. They decide what we work on, and we don’t say, ‘We think you need XYZ!’ Instead, we say ‘OK this is an issue. How can we help you resolve it?’“ Holly agrees that building the initial relationship is critical, and describes their actions as, “Empowering the young people to engage with them, rather than forcing it upon them, having autonomy withing the working relationship.”
Finding out what concerns and interests the young people means that the work is rooted in their everyday lives. Holly gives an example of young people who ask for support around money and budgeting, “If we know they like shopping, we can make it fun, going round the supermarket and making an experience that’s more interesting for them.” It’s this attention to person-centred working that means more complex issues can be addressed, maximising the young people’s chances of finding and maintaining a long-term, stable housing option. Often the complex issues can be traumatising and sit alongside difficulties in navigating the housing system; these things can’t be ignored if this longer-term stability is to be secured.
“Nine times out of ten,” reflects Holly, “it’s not been great for them, so all they need is somebody to guide them through it. That’s all they need. Some support. That’s what we do, and we do it really well.”
Working against discrimination
Shanta explains, “They’re discriminated against because of their age. Landlords don’t think that young people are responsible and will look after their homes. They often don’t want to give young people a chance in that respect. They’re only entitled to a lower rate of housing benefit [Local Housing Allowance] or Universal Credit. Having a job and renting are generally more difficult for young people. And I think people forget that that starting out in your adult life is tough for anyone, like starting anything new without experience. It’s difficult.”
The new shelter is an exciting development for the project. Holly can see how it will fit perfectly into their approach, saying, “It will give young people experiencing homelessness a short period of time to be able to think about their goals, a grounding to collect their thoughts and process what they want to do next, and get the support from us set up around them. It’s like a safety net, enabling them to move on. All we want is for our young people to fly and reach their potential.”
Bristol is an amazing city, and we appreciate the many Bristolians whose generosity in making possible projects such as the new youth shelter, and our existing work to get young people away from homelessness. If you’d like to join them in standing alongside us as we push back against homelessness, you’re donation will make a real difference… Thank you!
Listen to some of Project Z’s young people talk about their work with Shanta in this short video…