Saturday, June 27, 2015


From 500 nights on the streets 
Liam’s journey from rough sleeping

Hackney-born Liam was just 19-years-old when he first began rough sleeping. Thrown out of his family home after his parents’ marriage breakdown and a succession of arguments, he was reduced to finding places on park benches or bus stops in which to bed down.
Read what YMCA has to say about rising numbers of young rough sleepers in London here.
On occasions, friends would offer him a sofa and shelter for the night but, more often than not, Liam would find himself outside and awake, worried about what may happen that night in east London.
He said: “Sleeping rough was stressful and all I had with me were a few items of clothing and a small backpack.

“I remember the things I had to do to stay safe – sneak into places, beg friends, sleep on park benches, bus stops and even on the bus! You don’t get any sleep whatsoever: at most I would get about two hours.
“It was cold and wet and windy but the worst things I remember are being chased by boys and by dogs. People would laugh at me and their social perceptions were hard to deal with. What’s more, my family just didn’t help me as much as I wanted them to.”
Unable to find work, Liam was claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) and stealing food to survive. He would sometimes see his mum walk past him in Hackney but, too proud to ask for help, he remained on the streets for two years and slept rough an estimated 500 times.
Liam says he also had no official offers for help while sleeping rough and given no links to the support and accommodation he so desperately needed. Thankfully, this all changed when he attended a youth-orientated New Horizon event, in East London, and filled out a hostel application form for YMCA. Three weeks later, he was in a bed at Romford YMCA
For the first time, Liam, now 22, could concentrate on himself and look to the future. He said: “YMCA has made me a more confident person in every way and helped me make new friends. The activities I have taken part in have made me more driven for my own goals. I’m a lot more positive now.
“I now want to open my own youth club, which will involve football, and help young people get off the streets and into something more positive. Once successful, I want to spread my young club project to different areas.”