We want to end youth homelessness and we’re tackling the problem locally by providing a home and support to over 100 vulnerable young people in Norfolk and Suffolk every night. We give them a stable home and the skills they need so they can leave us and forge an independent life.

Forming part of our Housing and Homelessness service, and in addition to our accommodation centres, is our network of Hosts, who are trained and supported by us to look after young people, often those who are leaving the care system, in the Hosts’ own homes. We call this service Heart and Home.

Leah (now age 19) has been supported by our Heart and Home Service since June 2017. Here she explains the impact that the service and her Host has had on her life.

“I was declared homeless. I had just left a foster placement, which I’d found difficult and I was moving around from night stop placement to night stop placement. I was travelling two hours to get to school, which was the only continuity I had in my life at that time. The support of the staff at my school, especially my Head of Year in helping me find a place to feel safe and rest my head was incredible. Just one of the many things my Head of Year did, when she found out a placement became available, was add business insurance onto her car insurance and took me to view the placement.

With her support, I met with The Benjamin Foundation; they didn’t hesitate to take on my case and try to find me a safe place to live. Then, five months later I moved to a placement in Suffolk, which is where my school is. Here, I met Carol, a Host with The Benjamin Foundation Heart and Home service – and finally I was home.

Carol is an incredible woman with the biggest heart. She looks out for me but allows me to be as independent as I want. She encourages me in everything I do and she is always there for me. With her, I don’t have to be anything but myself, and that is something I have always previously struggled with.

Living with Carol was the first place I could call home.  Her puppy, Poppy is puppy therapy – I love her so much! When I was really poorly, Carol looked out for me, and if you haven’t had one of Carol’s roast dinners, you are missing out greatly! Beyond being an awesome cook, she is a remarkable woman.

She even accompanied me to a funeral so that I wouldn’t be alone. It was one of the many selfless acts that she has done for me and I am so glad I had her support on that day, and every other day.  She let me into her life and her family. I am eternally grateful for all her kindness and support, she will always encourage me in everything I do, including building friendships and connections.

Rachel, my Heart and Home Support Worker, is both practical and emotional support for me. She is a credit to The Benjamin Foundation. She is honestly awesome. She always has my back; she will always do her upmost to help me and she always fights my corner. When my Aunt was dying, Rachel cleared her schedule in order to take me to Addenbrooke’s Hospital so that I could be with her.  Rachel keeps my spirits high and I thoroughly enjoy our coffee catch ups.

The Benjamin Foundation supported me with my move to Suffolk and also provided me with continuity and stability once I turned 18. This enabled me to realise who I am, beyond being a foster child. The whole team, my school and my Host, Carol have helped me to build a sense of identity and given me a sense of family – the first I’ve had.

If The Benjamin Foundation’s Heart and Home service didn’t exist, I’d be homeless, in a Bed and Breakfast. It’s a unique service, which offers personal growth and independence with the fall back of support.

Keeping my Heart and Home placement open has been imperative to my well-being as I always know I can come back here, regardless of whether I’m in a good place, a bad place, stressed, emotional or happy. It’s a place of unconditional positive regard. I feel safe.”

Thank you to Leah for sharing her story.

Visit https://benjaminfoundation.co.uk/service/heart-and-home/ for more information about Heart and Home.

We are always keen to hear from people who are interested in opening their heart and their home by becoming a Host with the service. Please contact us on 01603 886930 for an informal chat.

Our visits to Rose Meadow Care Home mix the generations and it really works. Everybody looks forward to it and it builds links within our community.

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