Teens gain insight into plight of homeless by volunteering with Grantham Passage

NCS teens with Grantham Passage's Mike Monaghan and Ruby Stuckey, as they prepare to clear out the storage building set to become a homeless outreach centre.
NCS teens with Grantham Passage's Mike Monaghan and Ruby Stuckey, as they prepare to clear out the storage building set to become a homeless outreach centre.

For a group of 10 teenagers, their time with the National Citizen Service is giving them an understanding of the daily struggles faced by the poorest in the community.

While none had heard of Grantham Passage until now, they are all now throwing themselves into helping create the homeless charity’s dedicated outreach centre.

They are clearing out the many items left in the former scout hut and furniture store at the back of St Mary’s Church, Grantham, designated for the new centre, which will provide cooking and washing facilities, as well as employment assistance, to the homeless and poverty-stricken.

The NCS group are then holding a fund-raising Jumble Sale of the cleared goods from 10am to 2pm on Friday, August 21, and encourage all to come along. Furthermore they will raise money through bag-packing, and help provide hot meals at one of the Passage’s regular breakfast provision sessions.

Chair of Grantham Passage and Grantham Poverty Concern, Ruby Stuckey, said: “It will be a good opportunity for them to talk to our clients, and for our clients to speak to people outside of their own world. Often they are not listened to.”

Ruby has been impressed with the commitment of the youngsters, who give up four weeks of their summer break to complete their NCS. The first week involves team-building at an outdoor activity centre, followed by a week’s stay at university accommodation, in this case at Nottingham, where they plan what charitable work they will carry out in the following fortnight.

If helping Grantham Passage wasn’t enough, this NCS group are also raising funds for the Teenage Cancer Trust, a cause which has personal connections to members.

Moreover, like their chosen charities, the teenagers benefit from the experience. Amy Lowe, 16, explained: “When the NCS leaders came and spoke to us they said it was to build confidence. So far I’ve done about five presentations which I didn’t think I’d ever do. And now these two weeks are about helping people, and I’m really looking forward to it.” Moreover Amy is considering continuing with NCS as a career.

Niamh Knight, 16, from South Witham, added: “No-one else in my school seemed to want to do it, but I thought it was good to build confidence, and to try something new.”

It is just as rewarding for their mentor Sophie Howell. “I’d worked with children on a daily basis in schools, and this just seemed to be an extension of that,” she said. “I did it for the experience, and I’ve only just moved to Grantham, so it’s a really nice way to get to know the community.”

Asked how aware they are of homelessness in the area, Max Trickett, 15, said: “I don’t think it’s really highlighted all that well. Even if you live and work in the community I don’t think you are ever fully aware.”

Also lending his support, county councillor Richard Davies said: “This charitable endeavour touches on an issue many people are not aware of. It’s often only visible when you’re driving past and you see people going into the Passage. I think it’s incredible the work that goes on here and it’s great to see young faces around the table coming to help this week.”

Explaining the charity’s ethos to the volunteers, Passage project co-ordinator Mike Monaghan added: “We’re about giving a hand up, not a hand out. We supply food and other assistance, but never just hand out cash. For example, if someone needs to catch a train for a job interview, we go and buy the ticket with them. Last week we had a man come in whose mother had just died, and he didn’t have a suit for the funeral. We can help in these sort of ways.”

They are also asking people to continue to donate funds to the outreach centre project, in particular to help pay for kitchen and utility equipment such as fridge freezers, cookers, washing machines and more.

If you can help with the project, call Mike Monaghan on 01476 564809.