After many years of unwavering commitment to New Horizon Youth Centre, Professor Nick Hardwick will be stepping down as Chair. We cannot thank him enough for his invaluable involvement in supporting the most disadvantaged of young people in society. Below Nick reflects on why New Horizon remains so important to young people experiencing homelessness.
It’s a wrench to be stepping down as Chair of New Horizon but on and off I have been involved in its work since the mid-1980s, for the last ten years as a trustee and the final three of these as Chair. It is in good shape to face future challenges so it now feels like the right time to go.
New Horizon has always reflected and responded to the changing needs of the young people who come to it. It was started in the 1960s by Lord Longford when little else was available for young people in the West End of London who were at risk from sexual exploitation and drug misuse. Longford had the good sense or good fortune to employ Jon Snow as one of its first managers and we have been lucky that Jon has remained a guiding light for the centre and was its Chair for many years before handing over to me.
The centre provided a safe haven for young people caught up in the youth homelessness crisis of the 1980s and 1990s. Today it has a national reputation for its work with the growing number of ‘hidden homeless’ young people – sofa surfing, moving night by night from one unsecure and unsafe place to another. Its work with young people caught up in youth violence is growing fast and reaches out beyond the centre to the streets and prisons where these young people are. The centre has always reflected the age-old movement of young people to London to both escape what they left behind and to find work, safety and new opportunities. Back in the 1980s it was young people from Ireland and Scotland who made up many of the centre’s users. Today the same factors draw in young people from all over the world.
But although much has changed, more remains the same.
"It has been a genuine honour to serve as Chair of New Horizon. I have been inspired every day by its brilliant work with some of the most disadvantaged young people in the capital, changing lives by focussing on their potential. I know the organisation will continue to go from strength to strength with my successor and wish them well."
The centre remains true to its origins. Its work remains focussed on the centre itself, providing a holistic service to meet the varied needs of the young people who come to it. And despite the pressures the young people who use it face, what strikes you most about them, back in the 1980s and now, is not their problems but their potential. New Horizon’s job of enabling that potential by providing the practical and emotional support to help young people get through a difficult period and making sure policy makers understand the social and economic factors that hold them back, remains as important today as ever.
Despite everything the centre is a hopeful place. And that’s largely due to the Board and staff and volunteers who work there. It’s been an honour to work with Shelagh O’Connor, who was Chief Executive for most of the time I have been involved, Phil Kerry, her worthy successor, and the inspiring staff and volunteer teams they have led. I have been lucky to work with and learn from the Vice Chair, Ellie Roy, and some great fellow trustees. I am confident the organisation is safe in the hands.
Of course I will stay in touch and help where I can. Trustees have made a great choice in my successor, who will be announced next week, and who I wish well as they take New Horizon on the next stage of its journey.
Professor Nick Hardwick
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