We’re only a phone call away…
by Michelle Langshaw – Youth Homelessness Helpline Coordinator
It’s difficult to explain the feeling that comes over you when you hear that beep in your ear that signals your next call.
It’s usually a sound that represents a person in desperate need of help – my help! It’s a sound that reminds you just how vulnerable people can be and how important Llamau’s Youth Homeless Helpline is when it comes to helping them.
The calls coming into the helpline have significantly increased this year, which we know is due to the pandemic. People who perhaps wouldn’t have called us before were left with no choice because friends and family members couldn’t or didn’t want to accommodate them any longer. The health concerns and fear caused by the virus meant sofa surfing was often no longer an option.
Before Covid-19 took hold, we were able to try and establish whether someone could stay with a family member or friend, until a safer option could be found for them but that became so much more difficult because of Covid. Thankfully, because of the decision by Welsh Government to offer shelter to anyone homeless or facing homelessness during this time, we’ve been able to support people into safe accommodation and empower them with the information and knowledge they would need if they find themselves in the same situation again.
I think it’s really important to highlight the sheer range of people who’ve called the helpline since it first launched last year.
We’ve taken calls directly from frightened young people facing a cold night on the streets to parents who are desperate to find alternative accommodation for their son or daughter because their relationship is on the verge of breaking down. Our helpline is a free phone number so we’ve even had calls from concerned members of the public on behalf of people who have no credit on their phones, so they’re unable to contact their local homelessness department. Who would they call for help if we didn’t exist to support them?
As you can imagine some calls are very hard to listen to.
There have been times where I’ve really felt the distress of the person on the other end of the phone. One call that really stands out for me was from a young mum. She called one evening completely distraught. Her neighbours were regularly very abusive towards her and she had infestation issues, which resulted in her sleeping in her car and her little girl staying with family. This young mum was ‘homeless from home’. I knew that even though she technically had accommodation, she could still apply to the council as homeless because of the conditions she was living in. As well as giving her immediate support and advice, I was able to refer her to Shelter for further support as a result of our partnership with them. I found out very recently that both mum and her little girl are living in stable, temporary accommodation, waiting to move into their new home.
It’s not always easy to hear about the traumatic experiences that young people are having, but the one thing I do know is that the feeling I have before a call comes in never outweighs the feeling I get knowing I’ve done all I can to help someone in need that night.
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The Coronavirus pandemic has led to 150%increase in the number of calls coming into the Helpline