A new Nightstop host shares her experience of her first night hosting:
Last night was my first shift as a Nightstop host. I’ve been thinking and talking for months about Nightstop – to colleagues, friends, family all eager to know what it’s like as we’ve been through training, home visits, a safeguarding course.
Everyone wanted to know who uses it, how it works in practice, is it safe? Last night was the time to put my money where my mouth is, and have someone to stay at our flat, for our first shift.
In the afternoon, the Nightstop worker went through who’d be staying with us. He told us he is 18 and at college, has glowing references, doesn’t smoke, doesn’t like fish, and has been “sofa-surfing” but has run out of places to stay.
I told My Other Half who we were having and we thought: “This isn’t a big deal. It’s fine. He sounds fine.”
If anything, I thought, he didn’t sound like the homeless people you hear about.
We got home, frantically tidied the flat, got sorted and then waited, basically getting more and more nervous and stressing each other out.
I’ve volunteered a lot before, but never been without a staff member nearby to help. So I felt apprehensive about having someone in the house without that direct supervision.
My Other Half on the other hand has never worked with young people, never volunteered, and was pretty much freaking out.
I asked him what he was worried about. He said he was worried he’d hate it – and what that would say about him as a person.
I hadn’t thought about that – another thing to worry about!
After exchanging texts with the Nightstop team (our guest was running late as he trekked across London), finally the buzzer rang.
We looked at each other and grinned nervously. This was the moment of truth. We heard a quiet voice say: “Umm, is this the Nightstop place?”
He sounded terrified. We let him in. We opened the door and every single worry or anxiety went. He was shy, nervous, and I had an immediate instinct to do everything I could to make him have a safe and welcoming evening.
Because he was at college and commented on our books in the flat (and a shared love of George Orwell’s 1984), I found it just really sad.
He had no one, and yet had the strength and resilience to study every day at college while staying with strangers each night.
As we chatted about books and TV (and even a bit about Brexit too) you would not guess he was homeless. It was only as I washed the few clothes he’d brought with him and noticed the holes in them that you realised the reality of his life. It just broke my heart.
The next morning I got an insight into what it must be like to be a mother to teenagers. Getting them ready is not easy as I flapped around making breakfast and drawing maps to the train station.
If in doubt with what to talk about when hosting – transport never fails to unite the most unlikely of people, especially raging about rush hour!
As I walked into work after we said our goodbyes, I couldn’t help but think about kind of society we live in where that allows children to fend for themselves.
I wanted to help him as much as possible but know it is not my job – that’s for the Nightstop team.
My boyfriend lay in bed last night asking: “Why don’t more people do this? What can we do to raise the profile of this much-needed service?”
Which is part of the reason for this blog, to help capture just how it feels when you start hosting.
It’s seriously easy and the moment the door is opened to a young person, your natural instinct is to help – not to turn them away.