When Lord Longford and Jack Profumo set up New Horizon Youth Centre in 1967 they could not have predicted that 50 years later we would still be in operation and more effective than ever, helping over 2000 of London’s homeless and most vulnerable young people per year.
Established with the aim of supporting homeless youth and particularly those with substance abuse issues around the Soho area, the centre soon moved to new premises in Covent Garden. Board member and former student volunteer Ellie Roy recalls, “It was not a place of refinement! But it was in a great location for reaching out to the clients the project had been set up to help and offered welcome refuge and support to many whose lives were otherwise chaotic.”
New Horizon Youth Centre’s first co-ordinator was Martin Walker, who wrote a book about the establishment of the charity and its clients, “Poor Man, Beggar Man, Thief” in 1972. Walker summed up the ethos of the organisation in those early days “It was the intention of New Horizon to foster an environment which was conducive to the development of the individual’s personality”
Jon Snow, now a renowned broadcaster and our Patron, became our first director in 1970. In comparing his time as director to the present day, Jon states that “The ingredients that bring people here are still very much the same. It’s still a consequence of bad family housing, of poverty, of a breakdown in the care system.”
The centre moved once more before settling in its current location between Euston and Kings Cross in 1995. A £1.5 million transformation of the building was unveiled in 2010.
We now offer a unique, wrap-around service to young people from across London and beyond who find themselves facing homelessness. They can access expert housing advice, get training and education, see a counsellor, receive drug and alcohol support, be assessed by a nurse, take part in any number of creative and health workshops, as well as showering, washing their clothes and getting free breakfast and lunch. No other service provides so much under one roof.
Whilst our longevity is undoubtedly a marker of our success as an organisation it also has a less positive implication: young people still need us because so many of them have been forced into desperate situations. 1967's slum clearances and inadequate legislation have given way to new problems blighting the lives of marginalised young people: an unprecedented housing crisis, the effective absence of council housing, underfunded local authorities, low wages and unstable work. Indeed, the following quote from our founder Lord Longford could easily have been written about any number of the young people we are supporting today
“One young boy of 19 years of age came to London from Liverpool a year ago… He soon spent the money that he brought with him on bed and breakfast accommodation. After a few days of sleeping rough he came to our New Horizon Youth Centre. The staff tried to help him find accommodation but the resources available to them were either full or had waiting lists. The young man spent weeks moving from night shelter to lodging house, sometimes sleeping rough and sometimes spending the night in cafes... Because of his lack of accommodation, he was unable to obtain any work that lasted... A year after his arrival in London he no longer has any personal possessions. His health has deteriorated and repeated failure to get out of the West End has destroyed his confidence and he feels that he has no future.”
As long as vulnerable young people face crises like these, we at New Horizon Youth Centre will continue to fight on their behalf and offer everything we possibly can to get them on the path to a positive future.
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