NCS grads Cameron, Olivia and Adam were featured on BBC Radio 1 for their interviews with people from Depaul, YMCA, Streetlife and The Wallich. These grads interviewed a few of inspiring people who’ve experienced homelessness at one point in their life, including Ben, Sophie and Sarah, to find out their stories and understand how young people their age can be forced into these unthinkable situations. Cameron, Olivia and Adam give us their insights in this feature – check it out!
What have been some of the most shocking insights on homelessness in the UK after meeting people from various homelessness charities?
Cameron: I met some people from Depaul last year at the BBC headquarters and also interviewed people from other organisations. My first perception of young people who had been homeless came from a stereotypical mindset where I thought they’d all be rugged, poorly dressed and dirty. But when I got there, I was very very wrong. I sat down with 5 people from DePaul and they were lovely. One of them told me that she became homeless after she completed a degree in Fine Art. She couldn’t find a place or work even though she had a full degree, and my perception of life is when you get a degree you’re set for life so that thought scared me. Another shocking story was with this person who was Muslim. He got thrown out of the house and disowned by his parents because he was gay and it went against his religion. These stories shocked me because they were forced into that situation, and I saw how much I related to these people and couldn’t help but think, it could’ve happened to me.
Olivia: When I asked Sarah what was the hardest thing she’d been through and, even though she’d been hit by a car, her answer was sofa surfing when she was homeless. I think people undermine how difficult it is to be on the streets and alone.
What are some of the biggest stereotypes with homeless people?
Cameron: A really common misconception with being homeless is that they don’t work and don’t have a home, but with young people it’s different because most of the time they have a home to go to but there are certain situations that force them to live on the streets. For example, Ben’s father was abusive and he ran away from home because he’d rather run away than live in that house with him. Another woman ran away because her parents were forcing her to have an arranged marriage as a teenager, so it’s not their fault they’re homeless.
Olivia: The biggest one is that it’s self-inflicted because you don’t work or have a job. But in Sarah’s case, she worked 40 hours a week, 7 days a week. She didn’t have anyone to live with and when she was 16 years-old, she didn’t have a stable home to go to and that can happen to anyone.
Adam: For myself, they appeared intimidating and you come to realise that they’re normal people, they just have a different story with different experiences.
What were some of the inspiring stories that you gathered from the interviews of people who’ve experienced homelessness?
Cameron: For one of the people I talked to, it helped her because she was a single mother at the age of 19 and when I met her she was 4 months pregnant with her second child. They provided a lot of support for her and people would help her with her kids.
Olivia: I think from being at such a low point in their lives to being stable and independent again, I think that’s inspiring because they never gave up. And even if they did at times, they’d always stand on their feet again.
Adam: Sophie, with the help from the YMCA and Prince’s Trust, she managed to go from living in hostels to having her own home. She completely turned her life around.
What can other young people do to raise awareness and get rid of some of the stigma behind homelessness?
Cameron: I think we need to talk about it more in schools and educate ourselves with the issue. That way if anyone is ever in a situation of being homeless or know someone close to them struggling, then they’ll know what to do.
Olivia: Just do some research. It doesn’t take a lot of time to understand where they’re coming from. What I found shocking was that Sarah became homeless when she was only 16 – I’m 16 now, and I have no idea how she’s come so far as she has.
Adam: People know homelessness exists. Try to avoid stereotyping and judging them by their appearance.
For Action Day, you’re making backpacks for the homeless. Tell us about that project.
Cameron: We have a partnership with AOK Rucksack Appeal – a homeless charity that will support us to distribute these backpacks to homeless people in our area who are new to the streets. So their aim is to help those who’ve recently become homeless to help them adjust by giving them these backpacks.
Listen to the full interviews below!
Ben is supported by Wallich in Wales.
Sophie (along with Derrick and Danny) are supported by Nottingham YMCA.
Sarah has been supported by Streetlife in Blackpool.