Benjamin Foundation asks Norfolk families to open ‘heart and home’ to vulnerable teens

An urgent appeal has gone out to families across Norfolk to help homeless 16 and 17-year-olds get their lives back on track.

The Benjamin Foundation is asking for caring county families to open their 'hearts and homes' to young people for anything from a couple of nights to a couple of years.

The charity launched its Heart and Home Supported Lodgings service a year ago this month with a pilot project in north Norfolk and now wants to expand it throughout the county.

It estimates there are thousands of homeless people in Norfolk including those living rough, on housing waiting lists, and hundreds more 'sofa-surfers' who rely on others' hospitality.

Richard Draper, founder and chief executive of the Benjamin Found-ation, says youth-service cuts, and growing pressures on cash-strapped parents, mean an increasing number of vulnerable young people are needing help, and he has urged families to make a positive difference.

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One troubled teenager has spoken of the huge boost he has gained from living with a host family and asks people not to be put off by a young person's background.

The scheme sees families take in youngsters, giving them a bedroom of their own for as long as suits the teenager and host family, who are given full support and training from the Benjamin Foundation.

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Garry – not his real name – 17, has spent much of his life in care but is nowcurrently living with a north Norfolk family.

'I've been turned down by foster families in the past because of my background,' he said.

'Please don't judge someone by their history; most people are really grateful for the opportunity to make a change. Having a secure, stable place to live, knowing you're not going to get kicked out, puts your mind at rest and makes life a hell of a lot better.' Matt Garrod, operational manager for housing and homeless-ness at the Benjamin Foundaiton, said the charity's existing supported accommodation, in homeless centres and move-on flats throughout Norfolk, offered 24-hour staff support.

However some young homeless people – particularly 16 and 17-year-olds, looked-after children and care leavers – would benefit far more from a home environment.

The young people might only need a few weeks in a safe and kind home while looking for a flat or sorting out family problems.

The scheme was not designed for young people needing more intensive support and host families would be paid through Norfolk County Council funding.

Mr Draper said a lot of teenagers needed the support of people who genuinely cared for them as individuals. He added: 'People who are able to give them a bit of time can make such an enormous difference in their lives. We're asking people to give of themselves. It's a wonderful thing to see a young person grow and fulfil their potential, and to be a part of that journey with them.'

For more information visit or call Matt Garrod on 01692 500999 or Letasha Reeve on 01692 402207.

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