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Youth homelessness in York: An Interview with SASH

Image: SASH
Image: SASH

The recent increase in homelessness is often cited but with little recognition of the younger generation facing these issues. This year, The Yorker have decided to give their annual charity donation to SASH (Safe and Sound Homes), a youth homelessness charity in York. I spoke to Claire Usher, head of Communications, to find out more about the charity and the projects underway in York.

SASH is a youth homelessness charity based in York, also covering other areas of North Yorkshire. It aims to help people between 16-25 who do not have a permanent home, for whatever reason. It runs by “volunteer hosts” who are members of the public, that give up a spare room to host these young people. Some are just for night stop overs, but some can be more long term, lasting for two years. This is done to keep young people safe, and act as a stepping stone to independence. These people are often refereed through local councils or other organisations and then passed onto SASH to sort out accommodation options.

Recently, there has been a great deal in the news about the rise of homelessness and rough sleeping across the country. However, these statistics often do not account for the young people aged between 16-25. As Claire Usher told me, the extent of youth homelessness is an invisible problem,

One of our problems is explaining that just because you don’t see young, homeless people, it does not mean they don’t exist, because they might be sleeping on somebody’s sofa or somebody’s floor, or with friends of extended family.”

One of the aims of SASH is to raise awareness that like rough sleeping, that gets so much media attention, this too, is a real problem,

“It is a big deal, it is not like street homelessness where you can see it, right with evidence. And obviously people get concerned about it more because they can see it, but this is different because it is very much under the radar.”

Claire Usher, Head of Communications (SASH)

Just because it isn’t seen and as receptive to public attention as rough sleeping, does not mean it isn’t there. As Claire told me, it can be particularly damaging to young people who do not have much life experience – part of the “supportive lodgings” is to teach young people the life skills they will need to be independent,

” it is very much about teaching that young person the skills they need to life independently, so when they eventually rent their own place it doesn’t go horribly wrong because they do know what they are doing and how to budget, and know what their rights are such as tenancy agreements…”

Claire Usher, Head of Communications (SASH)

Young people in particular could be seen as more vulnerable. Cases such as care leavers – those who have been in local authority care homes until the age of eighteen, are just one example of cases seen by SASH. Local authority care homes are only legally required to offer accommodation for young people until they are eighteen. Often after this, young people are left with not a lot of support networks in place to prepare them for living independent lives. Although not having statistics available for the nature of every case, Clare tells me that she has seen cases of care leavers whilst being involved with SASH.

SASH run two main accommodation services. The emergency night stop which is a night stay service, where young people can stay at a volunteer hosts house in the local area whilst other long term accommodation is arranged. The “supportive lodgings” are more long term places where young people also learn how to live independently.

Like most charity’s, it is only able to run through donations and the efforts of volunteers. Donations go to funding the two main accommodation projects and paying hosts. Unlike the salaries given to foster careers by local councils, it is far less, often just covering the basic cost of living expenses. As a charity they also have to consider staff expenses as every young person is allocated a dedicated support worker. Additionally, all volunteer hosts are given a support worker – both of which have to be paid for.

The charity also does a lot of work itself to help raise funds, including an annual “sleep out” due to take place this year, on 5th April 2019. The sleep out is an event where volunteers and members of the public spend a night in sleeping bags, to help raise awareness of the problem and the charity’s work. The last one was attended by Rachael Maskell, MP for York Central. Claire noted that Racahel, “has been very supportive” of their work.

In asking whether the University could offer their services or funding, Claire stated, “anything they can do to raise awareness and funds would be hugely helpful to us”. Businesses like Nationwide and Aviva, in the past have provided their services with education workshops and CV writing, tailored towards these young people who have not learnt the basic life skills, due to living disruption.

People can get involved with SASH by donating online and if they can, applying to become volunteer hosts, as more hosts are always needed. Fundraising events such as the sleep out are also a way the public can get involved.

Although SASH do not have any new projects in the pipeline, they are thoroughly committed to continuing more of what they are already doing to make sure they can, “provide the best possible service.” All of this relies heavily on fund raising. Each year they have to raise more money as the amount they need, only increases.

The Yorker are pleased to announce the donation of £100 to SASH, following the charity donation vote from the 2019 AGM.

To find out more about SASH, you can visit their website here.