It is an honour to have recently joined the team at the Centre for Homelessness Impact. I hope that my lived experience along with my passion will help bring about change where it is most needed. Lived experience is a crucial part of the evidence base required to achieve an end to homelessness, and in my role as Lived Experience Specialist I hope to be able to centre those voices in our work.
I found myself homeless in late 2018 after developing severe PTSD. After nearly two months of sofa surfing, it got to the point of having to ask for help; without which I would have been on the streets.
I was put into Nightstop, which is the emergency accommodation for under 25’s in Yorkshire. You stay in a volunteers spare room overnight and get provided with a hot meal and breakfast the following day. Over nine days I stayed in four different places with different families.
From here I was offered a supported lodgings placement which was a similar concept to Nightstop, just a longer-term. The placement was great until the spring when the host also took in exchange students who were usually males of a similar age to me. The charity knew the ins and outs of my history and how male-specific my PTSD was, yet they didn’t think to mention this when offering me the placement.
At this point, I was told if I left I would be making myself intentionally homeless, but I didn’t have a choice. I was surrounded by up to six males at any one time, so I ended up back in Nightstop. Luckily this time round I stayed with the same couple for two weeks which was a weight off my shoulders.
I was then given a room in a hostel specifically for young people. There were 18 of us living there and we all had completely different needs; it was chaotic, to say the least. The environment along with the peer pressure that comes alongside living with so many other young people meant that it was hard for anyone who moved in not to get involved with drugs and anti-social behaviour.
The hostel came with 24/7 staff and security, so whilst it many respects it was chaotic, in a sense it also felt safe.
Two weeks before Christmas I was told I would be moving out the following week, without getting a choice into where I would be going. The temporary flat I was moved to was very similar to the hostel in many ways, but without the staff and security which left me feeling unsafe. The constant parties along with both the drug use and dealing meant I was left feeling extremely vulnerable.
From here I ended up sofa surfing again whilst some friends who I’d met during the general election campaign helped me look for a private rented flat.
Once I moved into my own place I felt like I couldn’t just sit back and watch other young people go through the same things I had. I found myself in the position of knowing what needs to change to enable young people to move on from homelessness. This led to a range of both writing and public speaking opportunities where I was able to share my experiences, but more importantly, what we can learn from them.
We can learn about ‘what works’ by also looking at people’s experiences of ‘what doesn’t work’. I learnt this the hard way, but organisations supporting other people experiencing homelessness can learn from mine, and others’ experiences to prevent them from recurring.
My vision is to combine my own experiences, the experiences of others and the best available evidence to bring about a sustainable end to homelessness. COVID-19 has shown us that we can get everybody off the streets relatively quickly, given the right resources; but that is just the start. Thousands of other people are still stuck in unsafe temporary accommodation, hostels, shelters and on sofas across the country.
I hope to be able to use my experiences to create positive changes in local areas, most importantly bringing lived experiences to the forefront of the work we are doing at the Centre for Homelessness Impact.
Real life stories provide us with valuable insights, therefore I am a strong believer that they must be weaved in to everything we do. I also know that when we focus on ‘real life’ we can provide hope for other people currently experiencing homelessness.
The person has to be at the heart of everything a service does and represents, I believe that if we put people first and listen to their needs, we can make sure any experience of homelessness is rare, brief and non-recurring.
Improving tenancy sustainment in the private rented sector
Our Head of Evidence and Data, Guillermo Rodríguez-Guzmán highlights the multiple opportunities ahead to improve tenancy sustainment in the PRS from our latest report with the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research.
Tackling tenancy insecurity in the private rented sector to prevent homelessness – what works?
Our latest report with the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research (CRESR) highlights that more could be done within the Private Rented Sector to prevent homelessness.