CHRISTMAS CAMPAIGN: Help us support charity which looks after our young people in need

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Today we are launching the Herald’s Christmas appeal to help homeless young people - and it’s being backed by panto star Andy Collins and the chairman of the district council.

This year’s campaign is supporting the Youth Concern Aylesbury independent charity.

In the Aylesbury Vale alone this year, 66 young people have faced homelessness and the charity has provided beds for the night a total of 235 times – more than one every other night.

What the charity really needs is new volunteer hosts to help provide shelter to young people facing homelessness and for people to donate much-needed funds so the charity can continue its efforts in Aylesbury.

It comes at a time when the charity has seen the number of young people needing support rise by 16 per cent yet its funding has been cut by a third.

The Herald’s appeal is being supported by TV and radio presenter Andy Collins, who is now starring in the Aladdin panto at Aylesbury’s Waterside Theatre.

He said: “It’s a sad fact that homelessness is on the increase. It’s an issue that needs to be addressed, and something that could be really helped if everybody did there bit.

“If it’s just donating a few quid to help fund one of the services or offering up a spare room to temporarily house someone in need, we need to pull together as a community and try to help each other out.”

The charity aims to be there for young people in their hour of need, when young people don’t know where to turn or have no-one to talk to.

Its drop-in centre, in Whitehill Lane, offers guidance, support and counselling as well as providing a music studio and IT studio.

However, young people don’t necessarily need to be struggling to access its services.

They can also hang out at the centre and play a game of pool or backgammon, chill out with their mates or chat on Facebook. It offers a safe place for young people to meet.

The drop-in centre, which is for those aged 13 to 19 or up to 25 with an identified need, also has a coffee bar, and a Connexions worker and a lead youth worker available.

Its Aylesbury Nightstop project offers a rapid response at a point of crisis by providing same-day, safe accommodation in volunteer host homes.

Fran Borg-Wheeler, the charity’s chief executive, said: “We’re absolutely delighted that the Herald has chosen to support Youth Concern for its Christmas appeal this year.

“For the past 37 years we’ve supported hundreds of Aylesbury Vale’s most vulnerable young people in their time of need. This year the number of young people needing our support has increased by 16 per cent yet our funding was cut by one third.

“We really need the public’s help to ensure we can continue to support every young person in crisis. In the past year our fantastic team of committed staff and volunteers have helped 535 young people. A total of 66 young people facing a homelessness crisis were supported through our Nightstop project.

“Your donations will go directly to deliver our frontline services - Aylesbury Nightstop, our emergency accommodation scheme; our drop-in centre, and our counselling department.

“With your help we can provide practical solutions and a listening ear for young people experiencing homelessness, mental health or substance misuse issues and family breakdown.

“And with Youth Concern, giving a little, really does go a long way.”

Aylesbury’s chairman of the district council, Cllr Jenny Bloom is also giving her support to the appeal. She said: “How awful that there were 66 young people facing a homelessness crisis and more than 500 young people needing support, especially when more often than not its through no fault of their own.

“We all need to think that ‘there but for the grace of God go I’, and it could so easily be one of our children needing help and support. I think Youth Concern’s Nightstop volunteers do an amazing job by opening their homes to young people needing somewhere safe to stay in an emergency.

“How brilliant that these young people have found Youth Concern in their hour of need. The team do an absolutely sterling job. Where would these young people be without them? They’d be in a terrible state - it would be unimaginable.”

For more details about the charity, visit its website at http://youthconcern.org.uk.

If you would like to support the campaign, the charity would gratefully receive cheques made payable to ‘Youth Concern, Aylesbury’ or you can text YCAY01 plus £ and the amount you wish to donate to 70070, for example, text ‘YCAY01 £5’ to 70070.

Donations can also be made online, via its fundraising page at www.mydonate.bt.com/charities/youthconcernaylesbury