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Peer Education Programme launched to tackle homelessness among the young

Housing Matters has launched a programme to explain the reality of homelessness to teenagers in the Isle of Man.

The Peer Education Programme (PEP) uses real life experiences to dispel myths about homelessness and highlight the reality of living without permanent accommodation. Last year Isle of Man charity Housing Matters met 48 people aged 20 or under, including 23 who had left home due to breakdowns in family relationships.

Award-winning developer Dandara is sponsoring the programme, agreeing to fund the project for an initial five years.

PEP is primarily aimed at 14 and 15-year-olds, although the content can be adapted for other audiences, and will be delivered in sessions in schools and to youth organisations across the Island. The PEP presentations will be led by Programme Coordinator Katie Farrall and are offered to any school or organisation interested in hosting a session. As the programme develops it is hoped former services users could attend to give first-hand accounts of their experiences.

Katie explained:

Every year Housing Matters is contacted by dozens of teenagers who are without permanent accommodation. The majority are sofa surfers, relying on friends, and many end up in entirely unsuitable accommodation, often overcrowded and with threats of intimidation. Sadly, some have no option but to sleep rough.

Most leave home because they feel they have no option following issues with their family; some want the “freedom” they think comes with not living with their parents. Some may have little idea of the reality of independent living, or the help and assistance available if they make that decision.

She added:

The purpose of the Peer Education Programme is to show them that reality, so they are equipped to make informed decisions. We draw on the real life experiences of current and former service users, anonymised to protect confidentiality, to explain the reasons why they left home, what happened to them and where they found help.

We want to empower young people by providing them with the knowledge they need to make informed choices, and advice on the support available if their home life is untenable. This may be in partnership with Government departments and other agencies.

As well as informing young people, it is hoped the programme will raise awareness of the issue of homelessness in the Island, which is far more widespread than most people know. By increasing acceptance of the problem, Housing Matters hopes to further engage society in addressing the issue.

Housing Matters Manager Julie Marshall, Peer Education Programme Coordinator Katie Farrall and Joanna Orton, Marketing Director at Programme sponsor Dandara
Housing Matters Manager Julie Marshall, Peer Education Programme Coordinator Katie Farrall and Joanna Orton, Marketing Director at Programme sponsor Dandara

Housing Matters Chairman Bill Mummery said:

It is simply unacceptable that so many young people here in the Isle of Man find themselves in barely habitable accommodation or moving from friend to friend, sleeping on sofas and floors.

Through the Peer Education Programme we want to give teenagers who have no option but to leave the family home information on how to access the support that is available, and to demonstrate to others that while being free of mum and dad’s supervision may sound like fun, leaving home is not a “soft option".

This programme is only possible because of the very generous sponsorship from Dandara. The company has made a substantial investment to help us realise this ambition, and by committing financial support for five years is ensuring the programme has time to make a real impact.

Dandara Managing Director Seamus Nugent added:

It is deeply distressing that in a developed nation like the Isle of Man we have so many young people living in terrible conditions, where they are vulnerable and feel alone. As a society we must do more to support young people who have no option but to leave home, and to make sure they understand what can happen if they do, and where to turn for help.

We had no hesitation in committing to a long-term sponsorship agreement to enable Housing Matters to deliver this programme. A measure of its success will be seeing the number of people under 20 seeking assistance from the charity, but personally I feel if it helps even one young person avoid the terrible circumstances some of their peers have endured I would view it as a success.

To find out about hosting a PEP session, please contact Housing Matters at info@housingmatters.im
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