ONE boy’s story of coping with problems of homelessness and how to get help
I was recently told that one in three young people, teenagers like me, phone their parents every day when they move out of the family home.
I was surprised by that. I was 16 when I moved out and I never phoned home. My family didn’t keep in touch with me, so I didn’t keep in touch with them. When I needed help or advice, I didn’t really have anyone to talk to.
It all started one night when my mum was out with her friends. My older brother and I got into a fight. He punched and kicked me, so I ran out the house and stayed with my sister. I didn’t think it was safe at home so I declared myself homeless. I was given at a room at a service run by Action for Children Scotland that provides accommodation for young people. The service is like a big house – up to ten young people can stay there at a time. We all have our own bedrooms, and we share four bathrooms, a living room and a kitchen. There are staff there 24/7, but everyone is responsible for cleaning and cooking our own meals.
A few months after moving into the service I was offered a council flat. It was Christmas Eve when I moved in. I thought that having my own space was going to be a really good thing, but it wasn’t. I was 17-years-old and living alone, responsible for paying bills and running a household. There was no running hot water in the flat, but I didn’t know how to get it fixed and I didn’t have anyone to ask for help. There was no hot water for the entire time I stayed in that flat.
The worst thing was that it was lonely. I had gone from being in a house with my mum, brother and twin, to living at the Action for Children Scotland service with ten other young people and staff. I didn’t like it, so I invited my friends round all the time. Most of them still lived with their parents and my flat became the party flat. I had noise complaints from neighbours, and was asked to leave just one month and two weeks after moving in. I say ‘“asked”, but of course I had no choice. I was homeless again.
Luckily there was a room available back at the Action for Children Scotland service. I’m still staying here now, and I will be until the end of the year. Living with ten other people is still a challenge, but I appreciate the company now. I also appreciate the support. I’ve been able to take part in workshops on money skills, IT, how to plan and prepare meals on a budget, and finding work. I think it will be different, the next time I get a flat. I’ve learned a lot and I’ll be older, better prepared.
Staff from Action for Children Scotland have explained to me that it’s very common for young people who get their own place to feel lonely and have similar problems. They call it “managing your door”, knowing who to let in and when – and feeling like its OK to ask them to leave. I was OK at managing my money, and I was good at cooking and cleaning, but being alone was really difficult. I didn’t choose to be 17 and living by myself. It just happened – and I couldn’t phone my parents every day.
In October, more than 150 people will take part in an event called Byte Night Scotland. They will spend the night sleeping outside in Edinburgh to raise money for youth homelessness services run by Action for Children Scotland – services like the one that helped me. I think that’s a good thing and I want to tell them all to be strong, do their best, and wrap up warm. I’m sharing my story because I want to encourage more people to sign up and help raise even more money. I’m sure that sleeping outside must be difficult, but it’s only one night and it can make a big difference.
Action for Children Scotland didn’t just put a roof over my head, that wouldn’t have been enough. The charity also gave me somewhere safe to come back to when things went wrong, and staff are helping me to learn new skills so that I get it right the next time. To find out more about how you can help raise funds for its youth homelessness, please visit bytenight.org.uk or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
• Aiden Carter*stays at homeless accommodation provided by Action for Children Scotland (*Real name cannot be given) For more information, visit actionforchildren.org.uk or follow Action for Children on Twitter @actnforchildren