FOR a quarter of a century, people in Bradford have been offering a spare bedroom to homeless young people, giving them somewhere safe and warm to sleep for a night.

It’s a simple idea - and one which has helped thousands of youngsters who, for various reasons, found themselves living on the streets.

Bradford Nightstop provides emergency one-night-at-a-time accommodation for young people aged 16 to 25 in the homes of volunteers. Young people are referred to the charity by Housing Options, the police and youth workers, and volunteer hosts provide a hot meal, a bath or shower, a bed for the night and a change of clothes. The young people are provided with shampoo, a toothbrush and a change of socks and underwear, supplied by the charity.

Since Bradford Nightstop was founded, 25 years ago, it has offered 11,000 beds. Manager Joy Rainbow says there has been a “dramatic increase” in demand over the past three years, and more volunteers are needed, to take young people in. Volunteers provided 658 beds over the last 12 months, compared with 583 the year before.

At the charity’s recent annual general meeting, volunteers, workers and supporters met up to reflect on its 25 years of service. They heard about the experiences of young people who have used the scheme, and what they have done since.

“Thanks to Nightstop I was able to finish my qualification and keep in work. I’ve now got a fulltime job and I live in a flat,” said one.

Affiliated to Depaul Nightstop UK, Bradford Nightstop has worked with the highest numbers of young people in the UK over 2018. It is a local charity; receiving some funding from the Lottery and some from Bradford Council, but relies heavily on donations. As it looks ahead to the future, Joy says more funds as well as volunteers are needed.

“There are 24 households in the district currently offering beds. Some weeks we have several hosts available, other weeks not so many. We need a lot more volunteers to cover for any given time,” says Joy. “Although it is sad that such a service as Nightstop is necessary, it is good to know that there are volunteers - not only hosts, but telephone contact people who fix up the placements, drivers who take the young people to their hosts and others who help in the office or with fundraising.

“We celebrate their ongoing work, and the diversity of our volunteers. There are people of different ethnic backgrounds, age, sexual orientation, religion and ability who all have a role to play.”

Mollie Somerville has been a volunteer host for 24 years. “I’d heard about Leeds Nightstop, we had friends hosting for that, then we realised that there were many young homeless people in Bradford too. We saw them sleeping on streets,” she says. “We had three teenage sons living at home back then so they ‘doubled up’, which meant we could offer a spare room.”

The first young man who arrived at Mollie’s Bradford home on a summer evening in 1994 ended up staying for the weekend. “It was August bank holiday and he was booked in for the Friday night, but there was nowhere open over the weekend that he could be referred onto, so he stayed for three nights until the Monday,” says Mollie. “Normally it’s just for one night, but that one night can make a huge difference to people. We’re giving them somewhere safe and warm for the night and sometimes they just need that one night.”

Mollie meets young people from various walks of life, and usually they end up on the streets because of relationship difficulties at home. “They come from all sections of society. The main reason is a relationship breakdown - with a partner, parent or step-parent,” she says. “It’s a simple concept - giving up a spare room for the night - and it’s rewarding to keep someone safe for the night. It’s a small thing, but huge for them.”

She adds: “It’s something that fits into our life. We tell Nightstop when we’re available and if there’s someone needing a room we get a ‘phone call on the day, and a volunteer driver picks them up or a taxi brings them. We give them a meal, a bath, a change of clothes and a bed. Next morning they have breakfast then go back to the agency that referred them, which can help them get longer-term housing.”

Volunteers hosts have training in areas such as safeguarding, updated when required. “It is something anyone with a spare room can do. Most of our volunteering is done while we’re asleep!” says Mollie. “We need as many hosts as possible to make the service as flexible as possible.”

* For more about Bradford Nightstop call (01274) 776888 or visit