Met Inspector urges others to join in fight against youth homelessness

Monday, 30 October, 2023

"Hosting young homeless people for the last decade has taught us to never take anything for granted." - Andy and Michelle Briers from North London.

Metropolitan Police Chief Inspector and youth crime expert, Andy Briers, 57 and wife Michelle, 55 from North London have been hosting young homeless people for nearly a decade.

The father-of-two has welcomed more than 80 people into his home, mostly teenagers, who would otherwise have faced a night on the streets, making them easy targets for abuse and exploitation if they weren't offered help.

Andy says he knows all too-well how easy it is for young people to fall on hard times and thinks hosting through Nightstop is one of the most tangible, rewarding and practical ways of offering hope to a young person while they find their feet. He says most of the people the family have hosted have lost their homes through unimaginable circumstances, including family breakdown or forced out of their own country because of serious threats of violence.

Andy said: "We've been hosting for nearly a decade now, ever since our boys were at Secondary School. It's not only been beneficial for the people we've hosted, but it's been great for us too. As a family we feel we've got a lot out of the experience, and people we've met as a result. We've been very fortunate that some of the young people who have walked through our doors have been open about their background and have shared their stories.

"My wife and I have always been aware that our two boys have grown up mostly wanting for nothing so it's been good for our boys to know that there are real problems in the world - it's opened their minds quite a lot and helped to shape them.

"Some of the people we hosted even helped them with their homework when they were younger because many are sitting exams themselves, or studying. This was a huge bonus for us as parents, and totally unexpected. The boys loved getting to know them.

"At first, because of how young some of the people were, I couldn't help but compare them to my own children and think of how lucky we all were.

"My wife and I often found ourselves thinking that if our boys, or any of their friends ever fell on hard times we'd like to think that there are people who would help them in this way or give them a safe space so they didn't have to sleep rough."

"Not everyone who walks through our door has the energy, or desire to chat and that's OK.

It's to be expected. It's scary for the young person, and they've had a really difficult time of it, so we always make sure they are shown their room and tell them what time dinner is. We invite them to talk to us, watch TV with us, but never place any expectations on them, some people just want to go to their room to sleep or study in peace.

"Chatting to the people who arrive is just a bonus, it's a great part of the role if they trust you enough to want to open up. There's been plenty of memorable conversations.

I remember when we hosted a young deaf Polish man and we would communicate with him by typing messages onto his phone, when our made-up sign language wasn't working. He stayed with us on and off over a few weeks. We all got on so well with him and were sad when he left our home for the last time!

"As far as my job goes, I rarely tell anyone what I do unless asked, but sometimes I'll open the door to someone and get a feeling that this could have been their last chance. They're so vulnerable at that point; you know they could have so easily fallen victim to crime or lose their life, if they had to spend the night on the street. It's such a relief to know that they've got somewhere safe to stay. We've often been told it offers them hope while the charity works tirelessly to find a more permanent solution for them.

"Now our boys have flown the nest, we've got more than enough room and won't be quitting anytime soon. It's honestly one of the best things I've done, and it's so easy to see what a difference it makes. A couple of nights a month, a hot meal and shower is all that's needed to completely change someone's life for the better."

Nicola Harwood, Executive Director of Operations from Depaul UK said:

"There are thousands of young people in the UK with no safe place to live or a regular bed to sleep in. Some may be visible on the streets, but more often their homelessness is hidden. And so are the dangers.

"We know that many young people who have nowhere to go, often because of family conflict, may accept an offer to stay with someone they've just met, or they'll ride buses throughout the night, seek out 24-hour bars, only to find themselves among much older and sometimes predatory people.

"Living like this poses extraordinary risks. Exhausted, uncertain and with few cards in their hand, young people can become easy targets for abuse and exploitation. Anything may seem better than sleeping rough - especially in winter.

"Nightstop provides emergency accommodation and offers a lifeline to many young homeless people in crisis. We help those sleeping on the streets tonight, and ensure that others who have run out of options never have to sleep in unsafe places.. It's vital that young people know that they're not alone, that this is temporary and that they have their whole lives ahead of them."

The charity says that the combined impact of increased debt, spiralling bills and low incomes could lead to conflict in households, which exacerbate family and relationship breakdowns. It says that this is one of the key causes behind the increase of young people vulnerable to homelessness.

For more information about youth homelessness, to become a Nightstop host, or to support Depaul UK's Appeal please visit



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