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New Horizon: Youth homelessness charity eye new Kings Cross shelter and April Fool's Day campaign

PUBLISHED: 09:45 21 March 2019

Phil Kerry and Jon Snow with the breakfast team of developers who discussed how to make the new shelter happen. Picture: Grant Frazer

Phil Kerry and Jon Snow with the breakfast team of developers who discussed how to make the new shelter happen. Picture: Grant Frazer

Copyright © Grant Frazer

As King’s Cross charity New Horizon Youth Centre continues its crusade against youth homelessness, its latest plans include making sure Londoners remember April Fool’s Day isn’t always funny – and tentatively trying to build a new homelessness shelter.

New Horizons' Phil Kerry with Jonathan Goldstein and charity patron Jon Snow. Picture: Grant Frazer /  Lawrie CornishNew Horizons' Phil Kerry with Jonathan Goldstein and charity patron Jon Snow. Picture: Grant Frazer / Lawrie Cornish

The charity is desperate to tackle what it sees as an under-reported and under-the-radar issue: the “hidden” homelessness of young people.

Its CEO, Phil Kerry, told the Ham&High: “One of the big challenges is the under-reporting of youth homelessness.

“There’s lots of sofa-surfing – they don’t want the stigma of sleeping in public places. There’s a real sense that official figures under-represent young people.”

So over last summer, New Horizon held a design competition based around creating a new youth shelter that could deal with the problems the charity encounters on a day-to-day basis.

What a new homelessness shelter in Kings Cross could look like. Picture: Morris+CompanyWhat a new homelessness shelter in Kings Cross could look like. Picture: Morris+Company

Earlier this month, it held a fundraising breakfast where property developers discussed how to bring the plans for a new shelter to fruition.

Phil explained how this came about.

He said: “When people ask us what our biggest challenge is I always say it’s finding enough places for the people who come to us to stay.

“Last year, we had 320 young people come to us who had experienced rough sleeping. There are not enough spaces for them.

The facade of a new Kings Cross homeless shelter, complete with a co-working space and charity shop. Picture: Morris+CompanyThe facade of a new Kings Cross homeless shelter, complete with a co-working space and charity shop. Picture: Morris+Company

“We want to raise awareness of this issue and see about the potential ways we can get more resources.”

The design competition, which was won by a project called Stepping Stones from Morris+Company architects, saw space dedicated to short- and long-term emergency accomodation, combined with co-working spaces and a public charity shop that could help it be entirely self-financing.

Polina Pencheva from Morris+Co said the plan would help tackle “the lack of purpose-built, dignified accommodation for the homeless”.

One of the proposed locations for a new shelter would be in the disused York Road Tube station.

“Since then,” Phil added, “there have been discussions with the GLA and their partners including TfL to try and get something off the ground.

“It’s very early days, though.”

One of the developers who got involved with New Horizon was Vincent Goldstein – who runs urban regeneration company Vfund.

He said: “As property developers we should be part of the solution to youth homelessness.

“I was introduced to New Horizon last year and was blown away by what they do.

“I feel we have the experience of property – of working with housing associations and councils and others – that when called upon we can help make this happen.

“But more importantly, we realised we need to, in the short-term, help them with what they are doing now.

“They have some quite urgent needs and the first thing we need to do is protect what they are doing at the moment by raising money and awareness.

“And then in the medium term it’s about getting together so that at any stage Phil needs advice we can help.”

When it comes to New Horizons’ immediate priorities, Phil explains we’re approaching a critical time.

That’s because April 1 is the last day London’s emergency winter shelters for the homeless are open.

From then on, there is only one emergency homeless shelter in the capital.

Phil said: “April Fool’s Day is no laughing matter if you’re homeless.

“Of course, it’s bad to be on the streets in the winter, but it’s bad to be on the streets on a hot day or when its raining on a September day, too.

“We’re crowdfunding for our emergency fund to help the young people who’ll be affected by the closure of winter shelters.”

The charity’s campaign is called #thisisnojoke and they are encouraging Londoners to donate.

“Even £10 can go a long way towards paying for a night in a backpackers’ hostel.”

To help New Horizon meet the needs of young people on the streets when winter shelters close, visit their crowdfunding page at uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fund/thisisnojoke. The charity also ask supporters do ‘do something funny’ on April 1st and join the campaign on social media using the #thisisnojoke hashtag.

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