Megan Shaw, 23, is one young person indebted to Western Isles Foyer for their help and support at a crucial point in her life. Megan, from Lewis, has been involved with Foyer since she was 18 and been in supported accommodation for the last four years. She is now ready to move on to her own permanent tenancy with Hebridean Housing Partnership in the New Year.
Megan started a job with Who Cares Scotland in August and previously won the Saltire Young Volunteer of the Year award in recognition of her volunteering contribution with Alzheimer Scotland.
“I was actually really chuffed,” she admitted. “I’m rather proud, to be honest.”
It’s a far cry from when she first came to Foyer, fresh out of the care system and lacking any confidence whatsoever. But they were there for her every step of the way, even physically helping her move in on the day she took up her tenancy with them.
“It was really good. I came to Foyer every day for support. They helped me with budgeting, cooking and cleaning and how to make a home nice. They helped me start to change.”
Megan successfully completed two college courses at Lews Castle College and is now working with Who Cares Scotland as a participation assistant, a job for which she is qualified due to her own experiences of care. “I’m reaching out to young people that are in care or are care experienced and allowing them to have a voice. Some of them don’t feel they have a voice because of all the stigma around being in care.”
Megan said Foyer’s support had been “massive”, adding: “When I came here first, I was really withdrawn. I was really shy. I was struggling with depression and all that. My confidence was rock bottom. I didn’t have any self-esteem but, through their support with accommodation and college, I’ve developed and now I am a lot more confident.
“Foyer were the light I needed to guide me through the darkness.”
Foyer was set up in 2003 in response to recognition that young people were becoming homeless, whether that was for failing to pay their rent, antisocial behaviour or other reasons.
It initially provided a supported accommodation service. In 2011 it expanded its service provision by creating a drop-in service and independent living skills programme. This was aimed at helping young people develop the skills they need, from cooking to budgeting, to be able to successfully live on their own and also aimed at helping them move into education, training and employment.
The organisation currently has 10 self-contained one-bedroom flats in its supported accommodation service, all owned by Hebridean Housing Partnership.
Over the last year Foyer has supported more than 75 young people across all its services. The drop-in service is run from the charity’s base at 36 Bayhead in Stornoway and is open Monday to Friday.
Foyer also run monthly service user nights and invite guest speakers along to talk about issues relevant to the young people. The events are aimed at reducing social isolation and encouraging positive peer networks.