The stark reality of homelessness was highlighted to more than 1,200 Island schoolchildren in the 2019/20 academic year.
Housing Matters’ Peer Education Programme, supported by Dandara, was launched in 2017 with the aim to dispel myths about homelessness and educate young people about the realities of living without secure and permanent accommodation. Over the past year, the charity has delivered nine informative and engaging sessions in primary and secondary schools across the Isle of Man, despite Covid-19 cutting the programme short.
For the first time since its inception, the sessions included a special presentation from guest speaker ‘Joanne’, an ex-service user who was herself homeless as a teenager. She shared her own poignant story and took questions from the young people, helping to bring real-life experiences to life.
Encouragingly, a review of statistics for 2019/2020 has shown a further reduction in young people contacting the charity, suggesting the work it is doing is paying dividends in the local community. Since the Peer Education Programme was launched, Housing Matters has seen an overall reduction of 32% in under 21s approaching it for advice, housing or other support. It continues to receive referrals from schools and colleges who have referred students in housing crisis for support.
Katie Farrall, Peer Education Co-Ordinator for Housing Matters, said: ‘Similar to previous years, we have found that students of all ages are aware of homelessness as an issue. The young people showed particular interest in Joanne’s experience as a homeless teenager and despite her story being a difficult one to tell, she answered all questions openly and honestly. In the Q&A sessions, we are hearing more of “I know someone who...”, compared to previous years where most of the focus was on what the students had seen on visits to the UK. This is positive and shows young people are becoming more aware of hidden homeless and the term sofa surfing, which is unfortunately very common in the Isle of Man.’
The programme was launched in 2017 after award-winning homebuilder Dandara provided a five-year funding package to help the charity deliver the project.
Dandara Marketing Director Jo Orton added: ‘Housing Matters’ Peer Education Programme has proved itself as invaluable over the past three years, and continues to go from strength-to-strength. It is equipping young people with vital knowledge and insight which they can use to make informed choices should they find themselves in any difficult circumstances, and where to access support.
‘As a company heavily invested in the local community, we are pleased to continue our support of this important initiative and hope that by increasing awareness and acceptance of the problem, we can work together to tackle the issue of homelessness in our Island.’
Moving into the 2020/21 academic year, Housing Matters has several sessions organised for the autumn term in schools across the Island. The Peer Education Programme is being offered to any school or interested Island organisation which works with young people. To find out more, please contact Housing Matters on 675507 or firstname.lastname@example.org.