How homeless young people in Sunderland are building their own houses

Daniel Swallwell, 19, refurbishing a property.
Daniel Swallwell, 19, refurbishing a property.
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HOMELESS youths are helping to transform derelict houses into places where they can live.

Work has started on refurbishing 20 empty properties in Sunderland as part of a new scheme to provide homeless people with an affordable home and the skills for a career in construction.

There are currently 2,141 empty homes in the city and the programme, run by Homeless charity Centrepoint, will provide 40 homeless young people with an affordable property to rent.

The scheme is jointly funded by The Department for Local Government and Communities Empty Homes Community Grant Fund.

Daniel Swallwell is revamping the first house in Southwick with a contractor from construction company Cendrig.

The 19-year-old has been staying at the charity’s Dundas Street hostel – which HRH Prince William The Duke of Cambridge visited on Friday – since August.

He said: “I think the Empty Homes Project is actually a really good thing for young people to do.

“As soon as I heard about it I jumped at it.

“It gives them the chance to have their own place and always have a roof over their heads, and a chance to go out and get qualifications for themselves.

“Once I’ve finished my course I can go on to sites and do jobs.”

Daniel moved to Sunderland from London to stay with an aunt but after five months he was told he wasn’t welcome any more and was left with nowhere to go.

He is working towards City & Guilds Construction Skills qualification with training provider Springboard, and taking Centrepoint’s accredited Workwise and Lifewise courses to increase his employability and make sure he has skills to live independently.

He added: “To be honest since I came to Centrepoint I’ve done more for myself than everything I have in my whole life.

“Centrepoint has changed my life and given me the support that I actually need to get my life sorted and make the most of it.”

Martin Gill, Centrepoint head of operations in the north, said: “80,000 young people experience homelessness each year in the UK.

“But for those charities like Centrepoint that are able to help, the chronic lack of housing young people can afford to rent leaves too many stuck in hostels.

“Bringing empty properties in Sunderland and the north into use will help more young people find the two things they need to leave homelessness behind - a home and a job.

“There are a huge number of empty homes out there, but we urgently need owners to come forward and work with us.”