Almost 900 young people have engaged in a programme which highlights the reality of homelessness in the Isle of Man.
Housing Matters launched the Peer Education Programme initiative a year ago.
It’s supported by Dandara – the developer has provided a five-year funding package to help the charity deliver the project.
By using examples of real-life experiences, the aim of The Peer Education Programme is to dispel myths about homelessness and educate young people on the island about the realities of living without permanent accommodation.
One of the classes given at Ballakermeen linked a story which students were studying about a homeless young person in London, with that of a homeless person in the Isle of Man.
Programme Coordinator and presenter Katie Farrall explains: “Through anonymised examples of local Housing Matters clients, we were able to really bring the story the pupils were studying to life and show that precarious living arrangements exist right on our doorstep.”
In the last year Housing Matters has visited primary and secondary schools across the Island - the programme is primarily aimed at teenagers but classes have been adapted for younger audiences.
Katie says: “We have found that no matter what age, most are very socially aware and are familiar with homelessness issues, mainly by having seen people living rough when visiting the UK.
“Every year we are contacted by dozens of teenagers with no permanent accommodation.
“Most are sofa surfers, relying on friends, and many end up living in accommodation which is overcrowded and where they may be at risk of intimidation or even violence.
“Sadly some have no option but to sleep rough.”
In recent years the charity has met and helped many people, aged 20 or under, including those who left home due to breakdowns in family relationships.
“In tandem with highlighting of homelessness issues, we also include a ‘reality check’ to make students aware of the cost of living independently, the challenges and obstacles to overcome and the responsibilities of being a tenant.
“We want younger people to know that leaving home may sound fun but is not always the easy option; at the same time we want them to know that if they really can’t stay at home we can provide them with practical help and support,” she continued.
Dandara Managing Director Seamus Nugent added: “It is worrying that some young people in the Isle of Man find themselves in barely habitable accommodation or moving from friend to friend.
“That is why Dandara wanted to commit financial support to ensure this programme can have a positive long-term impact.
“It’s clear from the success of the first year that Housing Matters Peer Education Programme is empowering young people by providing them with the knowledge they need to make informed choices, and advice on the support available.
“However, this is just the start and as a society we must do more to support young people who have no option but to leave home.”
The Peer Education Programme is being offered to any school or interested Island organisation which works with young people.
To find out more contact Housing Matters on 675507 or firstname.lastname@example.org.