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Former homeless spread message

A BRISTOL charity is leading the drive to educate young people about the reality of life on the streets.

A team of volunteers - all with long periods of sleeping rough behind them - has been brought together by the Bristol Cyrenians, who have helped the city's young homeless for 30 years.

The exercise has been labelled the Homefront Initiative. It involves the team making presentations in youth clubs, specialist projects and schools across the South-west.

As one of them put it: "We're the best people to educate others because we've been there, we are the reality."

Max George, a volunteer, has given hundreds of presentations to teenagers through the scheme. "It is essential not to pull your punches when speaking to young people - being homeless is crap, and that is what I say.

"I will have to live with the consequences of what I have done both physically and emotionally all my life - the drugs still beckon to me. If I can stop one person taking to te streets then what has happened to me will not have been in vain."

National charities are also taking the message to young people.

Last month, the charity for the homeless, Crisis, launched Changing Lives. Five thousand copies of this free pack and video are available offering activities such as debate, role plays and media work through which the dangers of street life can be explored and the representation of homeless people challenged.

"All young people will leave home when the time is right for them," said Crisis chief executive Shaks Ghosh. "But they need to do so with their eyes open. We must educate young people before they turn to the streets and the altogether harsher lessons there."

Information about the Homefront Initiative is available from Becky Golding at Bristol Cyrenians on 0117 983 8823.

The Crisis Changing Lives pack can be ordered in writing from Caroline Porter, Crisis, Challenger House, 42 Adler Street, London E1 1EE

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