I first heard about SASH when I was 16. I’d left home after falling out with my parents and a Connexions worker at college told me that SASH was an option for me. I was very lucky because I had a family friend that I moved in with instead, so I didn’t need it. But ever since I’d first heard about it I’ve always known I wanted to help some day.
Even though I had a great support network when I left home, there were still times when I found it really tough. When I went to university for example, I had nowhere to stay during the holidays. There were a couple of occasions when it came to 4 or 5 o’clock and I didn’t know where I was going to sleep. I always found somewhere, but I know how horrible that feeling is. I don’t like the idea of someone else, particularly 16 or 17 year olds being in that position.
I think I knew more than others that there’s a hidden homeless problem for young people even in cities like York. But before I started hosting I don’t think I knew that there would be quite such a variety of reasons for young people to access the service, which has been quite eye-opening.
I’ve helped about 16 young people since I started. Some have already moved around different places quite a bit and they are used to making themselves comfortable. Others are adamant that they don’t want to be there, even though they know they have to be, but it’s weird and frightening for them, and they sit perched on the edge of the sofa because they don’t want to put a foot wrong.
There was one young lady who really highlighted to me why I host and why I don’t want to stop doing this. The night before she came to me she had slept by Selby canal. She’d been kicked out by her partner and had nowhere else to go. She didn’t have family in the area and she didn’t know where the housing office was so she just slept outside. She was 20, she was so lovely but she’d had quite a traumatic past.
Teenagers are just such interesting people. They see things differently to adults and are going through a really interesting period in terms of personal development. But it can also be an incredibly difficult time. When they arrive I don’t know their story, but I can believe them and for some that’s a really new experience.
When they come to stay with me, they have somewhere safe and warm, where there’s food, where they can make themselves at home as much as possible, and where they can take some time to process and be away from the things that are making life difficult for them.
The nicest feeling in the world is when a young person who has been staying with you for a few nights comes in and you can see them light up as they tell you ‘I’ve got somewhere permanent to go, I’ve got something sorted.’ Then you think ‘this person’s going to be ok now, and I helped’.
It’s not something you can go into and assume it’s going to be easy all the time, but the positives of being able to make a tangible difference to somebody’s life far outweigh the negatives. I would definitely recommend this to other people. Doing this is really important to me and you get so much back from it. I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t genuinely enjoy it. The people that run SASH are really nice. You get support, training and there are opportunities to do things like additional qualifications.
SASH’s work is getting more and more important. I don’t think enough people know about it and I think the issues that young people are facing are not going away. I think it’s a problem that’s getting worse, not better.