James spent two weeks in Nightstop before going into Supported Lodgings. He explains how he became homeless and how he got the help he needed.

I’m 19. I’m the second oldest of six in my family. I’m a carer for my eight year old brother, who has autism.  He’s the youngest and we were always really close. It was good for me, because I felt I had a purpose. People said it must have been stressful, and that’s why I’ve ended up like this, but I didn’t find it stressful, I needed it.

I’d finished college, I was trying to work out what avenue to take. I’d been hoping to go to university. I went through the application process, but I felt like I was being pushed into something. I wasn’t able to communicate how I was feeling, I was still trying to figure out where I was going as an individual. I seemed to hit a brick wall, I couldn’t go through with it.

I don’t think I’m equipped to deal with my emotions. It came to a head with my stepfather.  I had an argument one night, and it escalated and I had to leave home. I stayed with my sister for a couple of days, then I moved down to Cornwall for three or four weeks to see my Dad. I was trying to work out what to do. Then I came back up here to essentially nothing.

I couldn’t go home. There was nowhere for me to go. It just seemed really unreal, like I was just waiting to wake up. My mum parked the car down the road, and I ended up sleeping in that for a few days. This was in February. I felt scared. It was embarrassing as well, I couldn’t speak to anyone about it. I cut all communications with my friends.

Eventually I went to the council. That was very intimidating, very scary. I almost felt ashamed. I met someone from Housing Options, and they suggested SASH. I was opposed to the idea at first, I didn’t understand what it really was, I’d never heard of SASH before.

They told me about Nightstop and Supported Lodgings, about what kind of people the hosts are, why they do it, how long SASH had been operating as a charity. I was terrified at the thought of new people, of going to their house.

I kept thinking there must be something else. So I spent another night in the car, then eventually I went back and I said I’d try it. They contacted SASH, and they arranged for me to go into Nightstop at Yvonne’s.

That first night was terrifying. I was on the street outside for about 10 or 15 minutes to prepare, doing breathing exercises to calm myself down, rehearsing exactly what I should say to introduce myself.

It was strange how comfortable it was. I think because Yvonne had done it so many times before, for her it was just natural. She made me something to eat, we talked, it was surprising how normal it felt.

She had a brilliant understanding of the situation.  She was interested in what I’d been through, she was very engaging without prying. There was no judgement whatsoever. I was able to relax.  My anxiety had been through the roof, and it just went down completely.

After those two weeks, I felt a lot more positive. The hardest part had been taking the first step, but once I’d done that, I knew how to move forward. I met the SASH support worker, and she explained a bit more about Supported Lodgings.

What convinced me to try it was the people. You felt they really wanted to help, to make it work for you as an individual.  We had an introductory meeting with the hosts, and again it was strange how quick it was to fit in, how to feel a part of something. I felt a lot more positive. Knowing that I was part of a household, fitting in, it felt really good.

I’m still caring for my brother, I do the school run, or if it’s the holidays we’ll do stuff together. Even if it’s a phone call, it helps. He misses me.

I’m definitely feeling a lot happier about the future. At the minute I’m waiting to start some therapy. I’m going to focus on that to try to understand why I am how I am. I’m starting to get things sorted.  There have been a lot of negatives, but I can’t dwell on those, I’m getting something out of it now and this could be the making of me.


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