Young People's Stories
Every year Nightstop supports over 1,300 young people experiencing homelessness across the UK by providing emergency overnight accommodation in the homes of volunteers in the community.
Here are the stories of the young people who use Nightstop and the volunteers who open their homes to keep them safe.
“I’m Max. My family moved around a lot when I was growing up.
I didn’t have a great relationship with my biological father. When I was 12 it got too much it was either call the authorities or leave.
I left and didn’t tell the authorities.I stayed with family and friends and only slept rough a few times. Staying with people, you feel in debt to them. I was always overcompensating.
I did my best to be the perfect guest cleaning and helping out. My nickname became ‘Mr Smiley’. Friends thought I was perfect, ‘Mr Superman’. Some people I stayed with asked me for money, more than what it cost to stay in a bed and breakfast. I had to stop staying with certain people. I never let them know what was going on. I had never heard the term hidden homelessness.
There wasn’t always a place to go. When I slept rough, things felt very vacant. I had my own little bench I use to go to. It wasn’t a time to sleep, but reflect on everything in life and how I got to that point. With no-one around me and only my sleeping bag.
I was still at school. The thing with growing up and not wanting to be at home was- I was always looking for ways to get out and be constructive. I would study a lot. I did 18 GCSEs. I did a lot of extra curricular. I ran track for London and got involved in theatre.
In year 12, a pilot scholarship programme started in my year. It was for low income families to go to uni in America. I applied and got in. After finishing my A-levels and a deferred year, I went to America to double major in neuroscience and theatre. At university, I had a room with a lock and a door. Having your own room with a lock and a door- it feels like your own space. But I had to come back home before finishing my major. My little brother needed support and I wanted to be there for him and my mum. I tried to stay at home, but it wasn’t working.
This time I was sleeping rough a lot more. It wasn’t the same as before. I was older now. No-one had my back in that way. The people who did weren’t in the same country as me. It was very lonely, scary and I was sleeping with three eyes open. Sleeping rough, it’s not just sleeping rough. It’s not sleeping at all.
I needed to reach out for help. It was charities that helped me. I went to a youth centre. Initially, there were too many people and too much energy and I got scared off. But they offered drama sessions so I came back. My anxiety started to decrease.
They put me in touch with Nightstop. When I got to Nightstop I was 'Mr Smiley' again. I used Nightstop for a couple of months. At Nightstop I felt safe. They DBS check all the people you stay with and it feels like you’re invited into a family home for the night. The families go to such extreme lengths to make you feel at home.
One of the people I stayed with she was so so welcoming. She showed me how to ride a bike. When she found out I had Jamaican heritage, she cooked me curry goat, rice and peas. Another family talked to me at such great lengths about my aspirations.
The families I stayed with try so hard to make a welcoming connection with you. These services go well out of their way to help people like me. It’s because of them I am where I am now. If I didn’t have them and I had to sleep rough for one more night I don’t know if I would have made it.
I have now moved on to permanent accommodation. I have a room with a lock on a door, a washing machine, a shower and I use it just because I can. I have an amazing job going into schools to do seminars on skills to succeed.
Now I have the security and comfort, my biggest struggle is I have the space and time to go over all the things I’ve been through. Sometimes I find it hard to get out of bed. It is my biggest struggle, which in a way when you think about it is beautiful.”
Ruby's relationship with her mum was up and down from the time she was 16 years old. Looking back she doesn't blame her mum. "I was difficult and started drinking alcohol and messing about with my friends. I had my own problems and I was very conscious of how I looked, I also had anxiety and depression."
When Ruby was 18 years old her mum asked her to leave home for the second time. On the first occasion she had gone to live with her auntie but the second time she moved in with her boyfriend who was staying with his friend. After a few weeks Ruby was asked to leave. She had no where to go, her mum would not take her back and her auntie's house had become overcrowded.
Ruby had no choice but to go to the local council homeless department. The worker at the council told her about Nightstop, she said Ruby would be able to stay with a host family. A support worker took Ruby to her Nightstop accommodation where she was introduced to an older couple she was going to stay with.
"I had never felt so welcome, I was shown my room, there were toiletries and nightwear left for me on the bed. I had a shower and I had proper hot food. I felt safe and had good nights sleep. I left in the morning after breakfast. The next night I stayed with another family, I stayed with them until my supported lodgings accommodation was available"
"Nightstop is really good and the people that open their homes to young people should be given awards!"
"I’d grown up through the care system and when I got to the age of 18 I thought I was doing the right thing by getting into work.
Unfortunately the flat I lived in which was owned by a local authority, I could no longer afford. So I decided to take my job over where I was living which wasn’t the best option. I ended up staying at mates because I had nowhere to stay, then became a bit unstuck and Nightstop stepped in and helped us.
[I'd ended up in the care system] Through no fault of my own. It was down to my parents. I was a young boy at the time, I had troubles going on and my parents couldn’t handle it. So that’s why I went into care.
As you go through the care system you get given everything on a plate and it’s quite unrealistic to what it is like in real life, so when you do leave at the age of eighteen, you come unstuck and you don’t get any money for clothing, toiletries. That sends a lot of people into quite a depressive mode. They then look to other things like drugs, alcohol…they might end up on the streets.
My life at the moment is quite good, quite stable. I’ve got a flat through Depaul [the youth homelessness charity which oversees Nightstop UK]. My goal is to carry on improving in my maths and English and eventually pass my driving test when I can get that financial support, when I can get the money for that.
Then eventually become a full-time fire fighter for Greater Manchester."