Service helps West Sussex young people avoid becoming homeless

Stephen Hillier, Cabinet Member for Children  Start of Life
Stephen Hillier, Cabinet Member for Children  Start of Life

More than 1,000 young people under threat of becoming homeless have been helped by West Sussex’s Homeless Prevention Team over the last four years.

From May 2011 to March 2015, 1,227 young people have sought help, and of those only 138 are still being actively supported by the team, with the majority returning home after receiving assistance.

Other individuals have moved in with extended family or family friends, some have come into care, while around 17 per cent have been guided into supported accommodation or private tenancies.

Clive Mills, team manager, said: “Our focus is to work with the family to see if the relationships can be rebuilt and if the family can be kept together. Supported accommodation is provided for those who cannot go home to ensure they have a safe environment. The aim is to always do what is the best for the young person.”

The initiative started in 2008 when Crawley Borough Council and social services pooled resources to provide two permanent living locations for homeless young people, with a social worker used to assess safeguarding concerns.

A housing advisor supported the process and Young People’s Services provided an intensive support worker to help a young person with work, college or their personal life.

The scheme then went countywide in 2011.

Toby Slater is a personal advisor who has helped a number of young people now in supported housing - before and after their relocation.

“My role is to coordinate all the various networks around a young person and make it more cohesive,” Toby said.

“It’s driven by the young person as it’s about their needs, not ours.

“Once stable housing is in place, my job is about signposting and facilitating other support they might need. Referrals to counselling, careers, guidance - however I can help.”

Charlotte Dart, 18, who is one of many young people now living in supported accommodation, said: “The biggest thing Toby did for me was link everything up. I had so much going on, Toby would be there to help connect it all.”

Miller Ashton, 18, and Oliver Hill, 19, live in the same residence as Charlotte.

“I became homeless and moved in with my best friend. I couldn’t live with her for long though and was directed towards Toby,” said Miller.

“He went above and beyond to help.”

Oliver added: “It takes a bit of time to settle in, as it does in any place, but I can’t fault it. If you need the staff for anything they do all they can.”

Toby and fellow advisors in the YHPT can only work with a young person until they are 18, but moving forward support is available from Find It Out Centres and district or borough councils.

He added: “This is for any young person to be economically sound, in education or employment, but most importantly - healthy and well.”

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