South Ribble charity appealing for help to boost young homeless people's mental health
A South Ribble charity is appealing for help to support young homeless people's emotional well-being.
SLEAP is a Leyland charity that offers temporary accommodation to people aged 16 to 25 by pairing them with local homeowners who they stay with as lodgers.
Manager Stela Stansfield says many young homeless people already struggle with loneliness and mental illness - but this could intensify during the coronavirus pandemic.
That's why the 47-year-old is encouraging the community to send positive messages to service users to help raise their spirits.
Stela, of Leyland, said: "As you can imagine, they'll be feeling really scared, especially as some of them are pregnant or have serious health conditions, like asthma, diabetes or respiratory problems.
"One of the consequences of being homeless is isolation - and loneliness is one of the main reasons for mental illness.
"Many people in the community have family and friends. They have stability."
But Stela says service users often do not have relatives who they can call if they need reassurance, a positive distraction or a listening ear.
She added: "Imagine being young and not having a wide network of support. Everything piles up for them.
"It's scary when you're on your own.
"So, we need to make sure they have not just what they need to survive physically but also emotional help. We WhatsApp them regularly to say hello and check on them, and help them access support.
"One positive thing people can do to help is send us voice clips, texts and positive messages that we could share with our young people. It definitely cheers them up."
Messages can be sent to the charity on Facebook and Twitter. Older people or those who do not use social media are also invited to write letters offering advice and encouraging words.
SLEAP has supported more than 1,000 young people since its creation 25 years ago.
But both lock-down and stock-piling is making the charity's mission increasingly harder, says Stela.
It has had to move people from settled homes in some cases to protect them and has been sending them food and toiletry parcels during isolation.
"But we've been struggling to get hold of basic items because of stock-piling. Some people are shopping more and hoarding, and we're not receiving as many donations," said Stela.
Some of the volunteers have also had to self-isolate. However, the charity manager says the team is doubling down on its work.
"These young people might be the ones looking after everyone else in the next crisis," she said.
"They take part in monthly group activities and often help out in the community, such as gardening in an old people's home.
"These are the times when they need looking after and the community can help them.
"When the pandemic ends, they'll be back out wanting to help the community again."
That's just one of the reasons, she added: "We're willing to do whatever we can to help protect vulnerable people."
To send a message to the homeless or for more information, search for SLEAP on Twitter or Facebook, or call 07710847697 from Monday to Friday from 9am - 4-30pm.