We are very proud to announce that our pioneering work with young people affected by Serious Youth Violence - both in prison and the community - has been awarded a grant by the Mayor's Young Londoner Fund, dramatically increasing the number of people we can help and the support we can offer.
Reese* was in prison when we met him. Known to children’s service since early childhood, he’d grown up in an environment where domestic abuse was a regular occurrence and at 17 he’d been kicked out of home by his Dad.
With no knowledge of where to go for help or advice he took up an offer of accommodation from an older acquaintance in the community, an offer which turned out to have some significant strings attached.
Reese soon found himself coerced into what is commonly referred to as ‘running county lines’, transporting and dealing drugs in areas outside London. Often this would involve the promise of payment which would then not transpire, or other scams to deprive Reese of means to sustain himself. He was also attacked with a knife during this time, and suffered bereavements when friends were murdered.
Eventually he was arrested and sentenced to a prison term, upon completion of which his options were to return either to unresolved family conflict, the criminal life he wanted to escape, or homelessness.
That’s where we came in. Introduced through a prison letter writing scheme, staff from New Horizon’s Youth Outreach Project worked with Reece throughout his prison sentence, offering him support with the huge challenges he faced. Being unemployed Reese initially opted to return to family, and during this time we provided daily contact, opportunities for education training and employment, and persistent advocacy around housing.
After the relationship with his family again deteriorated we were able to find him a place to stay, however with a stable home in place he started to experience symptoms of PTSD caused by his experiences, leading to behaviour which resulted in an eviction notice being served.
Again the team persevered, finding Reese new accommodation with a higher level of support. After many offers from our staff he finally accepted he needed support to deal with his mental health, and began seeing a counsellor we arranged for him.
From this point things started to change for Reese. He held on to his accommodation, his mental health improved and he was able to enrol at college to complete the education he’d left at 17. He is now in his final year and about to start looking into higher education.
Reese’s story is an illustration of the poverty, abuse, trauma and exploitation that lies behind the huge increase in violent crime among our young people. Those named as perpetrators are also invariably victims, drawn into a life that traumatises them and ruins their future.
"The New Horizon team will either do the most that they can for you or point you in the right direction... on my release from prison they have helped me stay clear from bad company and given me hope, even when a situation seems hopeless."
Stephen, who was supported by our Youth Outreach Programme
In the years since we started helping young people in prison or at risk of offending find ways to escape the cycle of violence and offending it has become clear that finding jobs and housing alone is not enough for young people traumatised by what they’ve witnessed. They need targeted, expert help in order to establish the emotional and psychological equilibrium necessary to sustain the practical elements of a stable life such as a job and a home.
We’re therefore delighted that the work of the Youth Outreach Project team has today been given a huge boost in the form of a grant from the Mayor’s £45m Young Londoners Fund, which was created to fund local projects that provide young people with the support they need to fulfil their potential and avoid getting caught up in crime.
This will allow us both to reach a wider group of people in need of support than ever before, as well as dramatically increasing our ability to address their mental health needs in addition to helping them with jobs, housing and life skills.
Youth Outreach Project manager Kate Bond had this to say in response to the funding announcement:
“We would like to say a heartfelt thank you to the Young Londoner’s Fund for recognising the life-changing work our team are doing. This funding will allow us to help even more of those young people living through the nightmare of Serious Youth Violence, and hopefully will go some way towards breaking the vicious cycle that is depriving so many of them of the future they deserve.”
Stephen*, 22, who was helped by the YOP Project testified that:
“They have given me a new start, helped me get housed, get a job and gain a bigger picture of life. Anyone that really wants to change their life can. If you put your head down and work for what you want. The New Horizon team will either do the most that they can for you or point you in the right direction. I am pleased I know this place and the people because on my release from prison they have helped me stay clear from bad company and given me hope, even when a situation seems hopeless.’
*names have been changed to protect identities
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