Step by Step is a youth charity based in Hampshire operating across the south of England. The charity not only provides accommodation to prevent homelessness, but offers counselling, training and life skills development to ensure a more stable future for young people.Their latest report can be downloaded here.
To mark the 10th anniversary of our annual Sleep Out, we're going back to basics with Sleep Out Extreme. This stripped-back Sleep Out will have none of the home comforts we all take for granted but which many young people don't have access to. We've taken away the frills and added the chills! Will you Sleep Out so that young people don't have to?
Farnborough Business Park, Hampshire on 9th October 2020. Participants will still sleep out, but not together. Sponsor them in this challenge.
While young people appear to be at less direct physical risk from CoviD-19, they have been disproportionately affected in many other ways. At Step by Step referrals for accommodation and help have increased by 80% since the beginning of lockdown. The BBC has highlighted the issue of youth homelessness on the rise more generally. The nature of need of young homeless falls in the most part into three areas.
Many young people have been forced to move because family members have been forced to self-isolate or shield and have no alternative accommodation. Their only recourse has been to appeal to the goodwill of friends and “sofa-surf”. Tara’s story, one of a number, on the Step by Step Website, and in the attached newsletter, highlights how young people are particularly susceptible to this situation in the present circumstances.
Disruption in their education and development plans combined with domestic dislocation amongst young people has impacted young peoples’ mental health and wellbeing. There has been a significant increase in applications to Step by Step for help and counselling. Undoubtedly the number of 512 young people attending counselling sessions last year is set to rise substantially this year.
Young workers employed in retail and hospitality, many on zero hours contracts, have been laid off. Their prospects for getting back to work are bleak. Resolution Foundation has concluded that youth unemployment could exceed one million this year due to the impact of Corona Virus. The referrals to Step by Step will only increase in the coming year.
Step by Step has continued to operate and provide vital services during the Corona Virus crisis and lockdown. In addition to providing accommodation at Foyers and hosted lodgings, Step by Step has continued to provide counselling and advice remotely. The staff have worked relentlessly to maintain support services including emergency food parcels, remote study and counselling facilities wherever needed across the five counties. This has required organisational adaptability and imagination to keep the young people secure during lockdown whilst providing staff to respond to referrals “at the front door” so to speak.
This organisational versatility has come at a cost. The longer term, personal development opportunities for young people has had to be held in abeyance whilst the immediate challenges of the pandemic are addressed. The nature of support for young people however is changing and the area of responsibility for Step by Step is expanding notably into Wiltshire. Undoubtedly the number of young people accessing Step by Step services this year will increase over the 1,209 young people cared for by Step by Step last year.
Despite these changes, Step by Step retains the mission of providing young people with wrap-around care in addition to accommodation, supporting them into adult life. The way that the mission is delivered could not be better expressed than by quoting James Mowat, a beneficiary of Step by Step, having been made homeless in his early life and now Associate Director for a global recruitment company. “I don’t think I can ever fully put into words how much Step by Step supported me. They gave me structure, care and a sense of belonging”. Today, James has joined the Board of Step by Step and is helping shape services to support young people.