Deacon Blue star Lorraine McIntosh has called upon people in the Glasgow area to ‘open their homes and hearts’ to some of the most vulnerable young people in her home city.
Lorraine has thrown her support behind Simon Community Scotland’s Nightstop campaign, after revealing she was homeless at the age of 18.
It’s an experience which has lived with her for more than 35 years.
Now also a well-known actress, Lorraine remembers how ashamed and embarrassed she felt when her family lost their home overnight when she was 18.
For that reason, the 55-year-old is backing Simon Community’s campaign to encourage people to become ‘hosts’ for as much or little time as they can.
Nightstop prevents homelessness through community hosting – providing a safety net to those who have been forced to leave their home.
The programme places young people aged 16 to 25 in a safe and warm home for the night, provided by a vetted and approved volunteer.
Hosts offer a private bedroom, a hot meal, and shower. A range of toiletries and other essentials are also provided by Simon Community Scotland.
Nightstop is designed to prevent young people from sleeping rough, ‘sofa surfing’ or staying in unsuitable accommodation where they could be at risk.
A young person can stay for one or two nights – or up to three weeks – depending on their circumstances and not necessarily with the same host.
During this time the Nightstop team will provide wraparound support where necessary, led and informed by the young person.
Lorraine said: “I came out of school one day and didn’t know where I was going to sleep that night. It was a really shameful and embarrassing experience and I had nowhere to turn.
“If Nightstop had been around then for me that would have been brilliant.
“Just to be offered a bedroom, a hot meal, some nice clean pyjamas and toiletries and to know you can talk to someone if you want to, but that’s left up to you.”
Simon Community chief executive Lorraine McGrath added: “We’re calling upon the people of Glasgow to open their hearts and homes, by helping us help young people in desperate need. These young people are often coming from extremely difficult circumstances, and a safe, calm place to rest for the night is critically important.
“Last year when we launched, we provided 96 nights of accommodation for young people, but we expect this to rise this winter, after we launch a new awareness campaign for young people across the city.
“Being a host might mean being available as little as one night per month, or more if possible. Each host that joins us is extensively trained, has ongoing support, and all of our work is underpinned with a very significant safeguarding process.”
Geraldine Feeley (53) has been a Nightstop host for two years.
She became a host so that she could help young people who become homeless because some members of her family have lost their homes over the years.
Geraldine has accommodated six young people so far and they have usually stayed with her for two to three nights. However one young woman stayed for three nights a week for a month.
She has always had a very positive experience and says she gets excellent support from The Simon Community to help her to carry out the role, including regular meetings and training opportunities.
Geraldine said: “There’s no pressure to be available, it’s completely up to you.
“I tend not to ask my guests a lot of questions because I think if they want to tell me, they will. We have a general conversation and if they feel comfortable, I’ll chat with them about their situation.
“Hosts need to be open minded and non-judgemental because each young person is different.”
She added: “Being a host is really rewarding, it’s nice to know I’ve done my bit. It’s great to get feedback about how well the young person’s getting on after they leave.
“But I’m just one link in the chain, if everyone did their wee bit it could make a huge difference.”
Lorraine McIntosh is hosting a no-obligation Nightstop Information Evening for people who think they may be able to host.
It will take place on Thursday, October 24.
People who would like to attend are asked to register via Simon Community Scotland