LGBT History Month Guest Blog: What it’s like being young and homeless
By Hia, an undergraduate at Aberystwyth University
Not every homeless person is a rough sleeper. Some of us live in between the cracks and cement: whether it’s a colleague at work, or a student sitting next to you in assembly. The minute you leave the building, you’re left worrying about shelter and where you’ll get your next meal from.
To say ‘that could never happen to me’ is a very wide misconception. If there’s anything homelessness teaches you, it’s that it can happen to anyone, young or old. One slip away and your life could be steering in a completely different direction.
For me it was at 16. I’d just started sixth form. September cruised by and I was doing alright. Good grades, good attendance. Then October rolled round, and, well, I wasn’t quite so prepared. It took a family breakdown, and the next minute I was made homeless. I started sofa-surfing (should be a sport, really!) and would then go school the next day as if nothing happened – only it had done. Expectedly, I started to run out of resources like food, stationary, paper etc. Free school meals gave me reassurance that there was one thing to get me through the day. But the moment holidays and weekends came around, there was little to nothing. When I’d outstayed my stay sofa-surfing, I moved again. This time I decided to seek help. Being referred to a safeguarding officer gave me hope; it made me believe they would change my life round. What I didn’t realise is that being BAME, my story wasn’t being seen anymore, but my colour was instead. The advice wasn’t supportive but more racially steered. Being asked questions like “had I been radicalised?” I walked out crying. I was told it would be for the best to drop out of education. By that point I never felt safe telling anyone my story again. Rough sleeping became the new norm to me.
I’d sleep at bus stops, cars, libraries and anywhere that had ‘24hrs’ stamped on its building. The overthinking of what I’d eat and where I’d sleep made me constantly exhausted.
So tired that I had forgotten when my exams were. University applications were looming. I was on and off being homeless for a while. Due to having nowhere to stay, I was going back and forth. Then COVID hit and it became unbearable. Through searching for help again, I met an amazing mentor and got a space in a hostel. It was the best sleep of my life. I felt happy and at peace, supported and surrounded by people who have gone through similar experiences. But due to safety, I had to move again. And again. And again. By August, I had lived in 5 different hostels. Support became non-existent, so I began to train myself to be independent. Then, out of nowhere, results day reared its ugly head. Like every student up and down the country, I was waiting eagerly/nervously to see if I had got into uni. Due to a government algorithm, I didn’t and so I went into clearing. Triumphantly, I managed to get a place for English, Film and Television at Aberystwyth University! I spent the remainder of my benefits securing my accommodation deposit and collecting bits and pieces for the move…and now I’m here! In a few years’ time I know housing issues will resurface again, and unlike my other peers I don’t have the safety net of a house. But this time round I know help is available: it’s just a means of reaching out to the right place. One where you truly feel safe, supported and free to be your own person.
Thank you to Ross and Craig (chair-elect of Tai Pawb) for giving me the opportunity to write for LGBT History Month for Tai Pawb. Being a minority, it’s important to know there is always a place to go to and people to talk to when things go awry. Never be afraid to be yourself, and do what you feel is right. Express your sexuality loud and proud, it’s never anything to be ashamed of. Lastly, always know there is someone there for you, even when you don’t believe it!
Llamau/EYHC’s ‘Out on the Streets’ report – ending LGBTQ+ Youth Homelessness in Wales