Rita and Tony have been Supported Lodgings Hosts for 20 years. The couple estimate they have helped over 60 young people in that time – an incredible testament to their passion and compassion. They are still Hosting today, despite their advancing years and Rita's mobility issues, and are as committed to helping young people in need as ever.
When Rita and Tony's adult children moved out of home, the couple found themselves with two spare bedrooms. They had seen news stories about homelessness and witnessed young people on the streets near their home town of Frimley, Surrey. Rita and Tony decided they wanted to do something to help and so contacted the charity.
Now, some two decades later, the couple have a wealth of stories, memories and positive outcomes to reflect on. “We've had laughs. We've had tears”, Rita recalled, while Tony added: “It's nice to see young people gain their independence and get back on their feet.”
The couple shared a story of taking two young people on a short holiday – with the authorisation of Step by Step. One of the girls had never been on holiday before and Tony said he could see a real change in her as a result of the trip as it represented a rare positive moment in her life.
Rita and Tony have acted as Hosts to a variety of young people from a myriad of backgrounds and with an array of needs. On average, a young person will live with them for between 1 and 1.5 years, but they have also offered short-term emergency accommodation as the need has arisen.
“Any problems, come and talk to us and we can sort it out” -Tony explained that communication was the key to being a successful Host, ensuring that a young person knows they can discuss any issues they are having and then taking the time to talk them through. It's also important to help the young person work towards independent living, including doing their own cleaning, cooking and helping out around the house.
Most of the young people they supported still keep in touch with the couple, sharing news of independent lives, graduations, jobs and families of their own.
“Our door is always open,” Rita said of the young people who have moved on and the young people they still continue to support.