“Being homeless really is a terrible thing, and is something that in this day and age just shouldn’t exist,” says Trevor Morgan-Kane as he potters around the garden of his Barry home.
The 60-year-old engineer and his wife Sonja are currently part of a project run by Welsh homeless charity, Llamau, that aims to tackle the growing problem with homelessness right across Wales.
Their supported lodgings scheme takes young homeless people under the age of 25, and relocates them in the spare rooms of people like Trevor and Sonja, who are willing to help them develop the skills they need to one day move into their own homes.
Now, after sheltering young homeless people for over two years, the couple are eager to share the story of why they gave up their spare room, saying that while it can be a challenging task it is one that is very worth while.
Receptionist Sonja, 63, first heard about the scheme to house young adults through a friend at work two years ago, and while the mother of four hadn’t done anything like it before, she says she was inspired to do whatever she could to help.
She said: “I was at work when I heard one of my clients talking about how they were volunteering at a help line for young homeless people, and after talking to them it really made me want to get involved.
“We have children of our own who have all moved away which means we had two spare rooms in the house, and after reading more about the supported lodgings scheme in a local news paper we decided to give it a go.
“Homelessness seems to be a growing problem right across the UK, and when we sat down and thought about it we knew we wouldn’t want any of our kids to be in the situation where they didn’t have a place to sleep at night, so it seemed criminal for us not put the space to good use.
“We started having young adults through the scheme to give them a base while they get back on their feet, if they were unable to live at home or had been out on the streets.
“We try to encourage them and help with things such as cooking, dealing with finances, and basically learning to fend for themselves in a supportive home environment.
“It’s difficult at times as they often come from a variety of different backgrounds, but they soon settle in and you quickly start to see the difference, so it’s something we’re happy to be a part of.”
Based in Cardiff, Llamau was founded 30 years ago to provide homeless teenagers with a safe place to stay.
Since then, they have supported over 67,000 young people, women, and their children who are either homeless or facing homelessness, and aim to tackle youth homelessness in Wales within the next ten years.
For fishing enthusiast Trevor, who has always had an affinity for working with young people, hearing this mission statement was enough to get him on board with the charity he says he is over the moon to be a part of.
He said: “We have kids of our own so we have some experience in dealing with youngsters, and when we heard about this we just thought if we are able to help out in some way then we should.
“It’s an incredibly rewarding process for us, and when you see this tangible change in people coming in then it really makes it worth while.
“It’s great having young people around the house as well, and even though they come with their challenges, they give you a very different perspective on life.
“Every person is different and individual which is an important thing to realise. Some are happy to keep themselves to themselves, while others like to get involved with the family and the things we do.
“Once they settle in you can really see the relief that they haven’t got to be outside in the cold and the wet anymore, and that they have this chance to reset themselves.
“We think everyone deserves that chance, and after helping around six people so far, we plan on helping more.”
Trevor and Sonja are now hopeful that more people will get involved with Llamau over the coming months, as they believe projects such as this are more important than ever as the coronavirus pandemic continues to put pressure on families right across the UK.
“It’s an amazing cause and is something we definitely would recommend other people to do if they have the space at home and an interest in helping young people,” Sonja added.
“There shouldn’t be homelessness in a country like ours in this day and age, and if we can help put an end to it then we will.
“We have two people staying at the moment, and if their time here means we get to see them happy and in homes of their own down the line then that would be amazing.”
A representative from Llamau said they were incredibly pleased with the work Sonja and Trevor have done since joining the scheme, and were eager to praise all the efforts of people who are making the project a success.
They said: “Sonja and Trevor are wonderful Supported Lodgings providers, and have had such a positive influence on the lives of the young people they’ve had living with them.
“They are very caring, respectful and non-judgemental people, with an understanding around the issues that impact young people, and the reasons why a young person may be coming to live with them.
“Llamau’s Supported Lodgings scheme provides young people who’re homeless or facing homelessness with safe accommodation within a homely environment. Providers like Sonja and Trevor support a young person to feel welcome and secure in their home, whilst helping them to develop independent living skills so that when they move into their own home, they’re as prepared as they can be.
“Now more than ever we need to come together to help ensure young people have a safe place they can call home. If you have a spare room, an interest in young people and a willingness to help them then please get in touch.”
For more details, go to the Llamau website.