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PUBLISHED: 14:31 10 April 2008 | UPDATED: 14:38 25 August 2010

Esther Wanjie is a homelessness prevention worker at Greenwich and Lewisham Nightstop

We were all young once. So what's our problem with today's young people? Creative, intelligent and energetic, yet often portrayed as if they are as big a problem to our culture as pollution is to the ozone layer.

At Greenwich and Lewisham Nightstop, we believe a troubled background can mean a successful life. Sounds like a contradiction? A past that has included participating in taking drugs, anti-social behaviour and crime can seem to be an entirely negative thing. Many lives - young and old - have been marred because of these aspects of society.

However, young people can overcome such experiences and grow particularly strong, determined, empathetic, committed and inspiring as a result of their history. For this to happen, young people need and deserve positive input to their lives.

Greenwich and Lewisham Nightstop is a source of compassion for young people, compassion that is demonstrated in practical ways. Contrary to myths that there are vast quantities of support available for young people, Nightstop staff find that many young people become homeless and are left without enough support to deal with difficult situations.

Nightstop aims to empower young people, by offering those who are homeless a place to stay for the night in the home of an ordinary adult in the community, who has a spare room in their home.

This experience of unconditional kindness and care at a crisis time affirms to young people that they are valuable, have potential and that their struggle to thrive is worth it. Information, guidance and encouragement are given to homeless young people and young people who may become homeless or suffer in other ways without such support.

Greenwich and Lewisham Nightstop is a charity, affiliated to Youthreach, which offers counselling to young people. Nightstop's work is only made possible by several volunteers, including those who host young people to stay in their home for a night.

Our volunteers remember that they were young once. They understand that a crisis isn't always someone's fault. They choose to take responsibility for the fact that, while they have more than what they need, an important, talented person has unmet needs. And they are uniquely rewarded by knowing that, through their generosity, someone knows they are loved.

If you have time, space or money to support Greenwich and Lewisham Nightstop, please contact Isabel on 020 8269 2200 or isabeln@youth For more details about homelessness prevention work, contact Esther at 020 8269 2200 or

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