SPENDING the night in a city square was a one- off for Rhona Hutchon, but for many young people it’s routine
EARLIER this month hundreds of others and I spent the night under the stars in Charlotte Square raising money to support the youth homelessness services run by Action for Children Scotland.
But while we were only sleeping out for one night, knowing we would return home to a warm bed, the same cannot be said for the near-10,000 people under the age of 24 who are homeless. Of that figure 1493 were aged just 16 or 17.
It is for their future that we spend the night sleeping out. It is because we want to see these young people, and every young person in Scotland, have a safe and loving place to call home. We have heard too many stories about young people sofa surfing, spending nights in B&Bs or sleeping on the streets. And that is the reason why there is Byte Night Scotland, an annual sleep out now in its tenth year, which has already raised over £650,000.
One of the services that benefits is New Horizons in East Lothian. It supports young people from Edinburgh and across the Lothians who have, often through no fault of their own, found themselves without a roof over their head.
The money raised at Byte Night provides accommodation for children and young people who have nowhere else to go, food parcels and electricity cards for those who have been forced to live alone at an early age, and mediation to help deal with problems and keep families together.
Every year, some of the young people who are supported by Action for Children services attend Byte Night and share their stories. And that is how I met Tom, a young person who found himself, in his early years, being adopted by a family in the north of England. Various issues, all outwith his control, saw him return to Scotland to a family that he was now remote from. This resulted in him finding himself down on his luck and he sought the support from New Horizons to get his life back on track.
We were all close to tears, having heard about his journey. It was clear that one thing that Tom needed was to be given a chance. For the past few months now, Tom has been a part of our team in Edinburgh. He’s settled in well, working hard and has shown the sort of qualities that make it clear that we were right to get him to join us.
If you want to play your part, you can still donate by texting ‘ACTION’ to 70080 to donate £5 now. To find out more, visit bytenight.org.uk
• Rhona Hutchon is co-chair of the Byte Night Scotland board and director of recruitment specialists Harvey Nash