Young and homeless

December 8th, 2015 in Features

Someone sits curled up at the bottom of some stairs.

Home Group clients, Anna Matson and Frayer Townsend-Lewis, discuss the reality of homelessness and challenge the myths that surround it.

Our reality

Being homeless is like being in a constant state of not knowing when you’re going to eat next, where you’re going to sleep and wondering if you’re going to be safe for the night.

Being homeless is a never ending battle.

You ask yourself the most basic questions like Where can I get changed? When will I next wash my clothes? Things that other people take for granted.

A lot of people think that homeless people are addicts or bad people, but people become homeless for lots of different reasons.

This could be because of losing a job, a breakdown in in relationships and personal and mental health issues.

In fact, these are causes that can have an effect on us so that we start drinking or doing drugs.

You can start to question yourself, your friends and your state of mind.

You can find yourself in some very dark places, to the extent that you might get yourself arrested just so you can have a safe, dry place to spend the night.

Some people will end up in prison so they don’t have to turn to drink or drugs to escape homelessness.

You start to think that the only person you can rely on is yourself.

One positive that can come from homelessness is that it forces you to be self-dependent, and to break away from everything and anything, allowing you to find a new and improved life.

This space and time can allow you to reflect and review relationships, and build upon them with a new overview and attitude.

After struggling with homelessness you can develop real understanding and empathy for those around you, and you can become more at peace with the world.

Anna’s story

When I was 15 I started running away from home but was often brought back by the police.

Things at home weren’t good. After my 16th birthday I started getting in trouble with the police and went on a downward spiral.

Not long after my 19th I ended up in prison.

I was homeless when I came out.

After sofa surfing for four months I got a place at One Foot Forward.

It was a homeless hostel for young people age 16-24.

It helped with giving me somewhere long term to live and the staff there supported me with things like getting to doctors’ appointments.

But unfortunately, with so many different young people living together with so many different problems it’s sometimes hard not to get caught up in something.

Home Group took over the service in April and so far it has mainly been a positive experience.

That’s not to say I haven’t slipped up once or twice!

Homelessness - the facts

Homelessness has been the subject of a number of academic research projects over the years.

Adele Irving, Research Fellow at Northumbria University in Newcastle recently explored how antisocial behaviour is often the consequence, and not the cause of homelessness.

Adele said: ‘It is a common misconception that people become homeless because of problems of addiction and criminality.'

Indeed, a significant body of research indicates that homelessness is often a cause, rather than a consequence, of these issues.

A study into the lives of 82 homeless people in Newcastle identified that roughly half had led ‘normal’ lives until the occurrence of a significant life event triggered a pathway into homelessness.

Others had experienced a lifetime of exclusion, involving familial addiction, abuse, being taken into care or bereavement, for example, making their pathways into addiction and homelessness significantly more likely.

‘Once living on the streets, homeless people often exhibit remarkable levels of resourcefulness, creativity and resilience in order to survive in conditions which those who have not experienced homelessness would find difficult to imagine.

Unfortunately, the use of substances and criminality appear to be the only available short-term solutions to their predicament’.