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Connect at Christmas: Keep a light on and give someone hope for months ahead, urges Aberdeen charity

Foyer Chief Executive Leona McDermid.
Foyer Chief Executive Leona McDermid.

A homeless charity focused on spreading hope this festive period is urging people to inspire it, believe it and encourage it as we move towards a new year.

Aberdeen Foyer supports young people aged 16-25 who are facing homelessness, poverty, unemployment and poor mental health. Isolation is a prominent factor in for many of these young people, which has been heightened not only by the festive period but coronavirus.

The charity chose a positive message for its campaign this year, believing it was “vital” when so many people are struggling.

Chief executive Leona McDermid said: “It’s about keeping a light on and not just in relation to people’s immediate challenges.

“I think as a young person in particular, and for those who are might going through tough times at the moment, having hope for the future is really vital to people feeling resilient during this time.”

The charity also provides help with any training needs that young people they support might need to get a job.

Ms McDermid encouraged employers to consider work experience opportunities which will build confidence, skills and hope for young people to build a positive future.

“We recognise as well that for many employers out there, it is also a tough period and they may not be able to contribute financially but work experience would provide hope for many young people and adults across the region,” she said.

Work experience just as important as financial donations

The Foyer currently has 51 young people living in their supported tenancies and an additional 30 being supported through their housing first project.

Workers are making sure those supported “have a sense of connection” over the festive period to combat isolation.

“I think maintaining connections and helping people see a future is really, really important because without that it can feel like what is the point,” Ms McDermid said. “And it can feel a bit like why continue learning? Why should I engage with anything?What’s the point at the end of it?

“It can be a really challenging year anyway without a global pandemic and so it is almost as if we’re expecting things to be heightened just because of where people are at and what they’ve been through this year.”

Charity efforts praised as they respond to “significant jump” in referrals

The Foyer has seen a “significant jump” in referrals, the level of support required and the immediacy around it this year.

There is also “increased anecdotal evidence” of homelessness with more people sofa surfing and moving in-between friends houses, creating a “bit of hidden homelessness”.

In one case, the family supported a family unable to pay for their children’s school lunches while waiting five weeks to be moved on to Universal Credit.

The delay left them ineligible for free school meals but the family couldn’t afford the meals and the Foyer was able to provide a small amount of money to tide them over – lifting a “big burden” off of their shoulders.

Ms McDermid said it had been “humbling” to watch her team’s huge efforts over 2020.

“Doing doorstep meetings with folk as well doing check-ins so they’ve got someone there they can connect with is absolutely vital in terms of combating loneliness,” she said. “Also just knowing that it doesn’t matter what question you might have or even if you’re just wanting a yap that you’ve got someone that you can go to and do that with is really vital at time.”

“I would urge anyone to get in touch either with Foyer or access support through the council – both councils do a tremendous job in relation to supporting anyone who presents as homeless.”

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