Homeless at Sixteen

I have been inspired to write this post following the news of the death of Maya Angelou, an inspirational woman. Please be aware that this post deals with some issues of a sensitive nature and some readers may find them upsetting.

maya_quote

The first time I really felt that I took control of my life was when I was 16. Amongst many other things I had been sexually abused at home and decided enough was enough and left. I did not go far as there was a hostel right at the back of our house. Luckily I got a place after one night of sleeping on someone’s couch. See I was still young, in age and mentality, and I could not bear to be too far away from my younger brother. I was really low and had tried to take an overdose of paracetamol before finding friends who found me the place to stay. I say tried because I did not want to die, I wanted to be normal and loveable. My self-esteem so low that I believed that I was too much of a coward to even end it all. So I had taken them very slowly after time and not even enough to warrant going to hospital. This just made me feel all the more pathetic.

I met people in the hostel who were homeless for all manner of reasons, but mainly that they had just come out of prison. I was sharing with men who had been convicted of sexually abusing children. Indeed even a guy who had had sex with me when he was nearly 21 and I was only 12 lived in there (he later claimed to the police that he only met me when we lived together in the hostel). But the hostel was warm and dry. I learned how to wash clothes and cook food. It was well staffed and they made sure it remained a safe place to live. Yes people smoked cannabis there, but this was a pretty normal part of my teenage years. Although some of the people were ex-heroin addicts (well they said they had quit) I never actually saw it. However, I did see a pregnant girl on a bad acid trip once – she was in a bad place.

homeless at sixteen

I shared a room with a lovely girl whose adoptive parents had decided that they no longer wanted her. She became pregnant in the time we shared our room. For ages people did not believe her and then said she only did it for the council flat – but let’s be honest who could blame her if she did. Treated like a child staff would bang on the doors every morning, making sure you got up and did your chores. Having to live by so many rules and regulations.

The hostel was for those ages 16-25, so just before my boyfriend turned 25 he was kicked out. Nothing at all to do with the fact that he was violent towards the female staff. I went with him – and there was nothing legally the staff could do to stop me, to protect me, as I was 16. He got us a room in a shared house where the landlord only took an extra £10 a week on top of our housing benefit. But he got us to work for him for free. My boyfriend would plaster, and we would do up gardens – for long hours. I lived there for 2 months, after which time the beatings and control from my boyfriend became too much. The police could not act when called out to discover me covered in bruises as I was 16 – and he was classed as the person looking after me. I was too scared to press charges. Even the thought of more sexual abuse was more appealing and I returned home.

I feel really lucky that home was an option. For many young people going home is not. I have met people who live on the streets, who eat out of bins. I have seen inside so many hostels and not all are as good as where I stayed. It is frightening to think that there are people out there who take advantage of the vulnerable. There was a point when I discovered how easily it is to fall into prostitution – some guy showing an interest, pretending he cares. Luckily I was at college and someone else knew this guy was a pimp. I was fortunate that they liked me enough to get them to leave me alone.

homeless at sixteen

I am grateful to the path that life has redirected me on and have a wonderful life with my family. Not everyone gets that chance. I am grateful for the Legal Aid which allowed me to apply for injunctions. I am thankful for counselling from Barnardos. They made me see that the way I was living was not good for my son. This was enough for me to move to another city alone with him. Since then I have realised the value of me. Please try not to judge the homeless– you have not walked a mile in their shoes. I bumped into a Big Issue seller the other month and despite the hard time he was having he was so cheery and positive. Each Big Issue seller buys the magazines at £1.25 and sells them on for £2.50. He made me really stop and think about how life is what you make it. You could have a fantastic life but if you are miserable then what’s the point? And if you can smile through the pain then it makes it all worthwhile.

I have been petrified to walk around my own home town – these photos were taken last month when I faced my fears and walked around the City on my own. I still have a long way to go but I am getting there.

This is not a sponsored post.

118 thoughts on “Homeless at Sixteen”

  1. I had no idea you’d been through this – it must have been very hard to hit “publish”? You’re an amazing, brave, inspirational woman! Sending big hugs! X

    Reply
    • Thank you – and you know it is things that people do can make such a massive impact on my life. I am just not good at knowing how to show it. Our dinosaur tail means the World to me because I was important enough for you to use your time to do it, and thought of me – thank you.

      Reply
  2. Joy – you are quite simply amazing. You have taken control of your life in a way that so many of us could never even think of having to. You’re a complete inspiration to your kids, and all of us lucky enough to know you. x

    Reply
  3. Oh Joy I had no idea that you had been through all of this. What an amazing and incredibly brave post that must have been terribly difficult and emotional to write. You are awesome lady, never forget that x

    Reply
  4. Thank you for sharing your story. You are a brave and inspirational woman and in sharing your story will have given so much strength to others experiencing similar things. I wish you all the very best for a happy future. Stay strong Xx

    Reply
  5. hugs… i can imagine how hard that was to write and publish. I went through very similar experiences in my teens, so glad that we both got out the other side!

    Reply
  6. My heart goes out to you. I can only imagine how hard your life must be and how hard it must have been for you to write this blog article. I wish you all the best for the future.

    Reply
  7. This is an amazing post and you are an amazing woman for sharing your story. So many of us experience abuse in our childhood; I experienced a lot of physical and verbal violence…. takes a long time to come through all that. Thank you for writing this. XXX

    Reply
    • I am sorry to hear that you have suffered abuse, I think we can all help each other survive along the way, thank you very much for commenting, and sharing x

      Reply
  8. Such an emotional post. Thank you for sharing. People just don’t know what other people have been through in their lives and just judge ‘on the surface’.

    Reply
  9. You have been so brave to post such an honest insight.

    I’m so sorry your early life was like this.

    I hope it will help those going through similar see there is a way out, and help those who have no experience of such to empathise more. xx

    Reply
  10. Having known you in your early teens, it breaks my heart that you were going through so much at home and I never knew. I can only echo the words said here that whilst no one should have to go through this, you are now an exceptional woman, mother, friend (and blogger), with so much strength, it is admirable x

    Reply
    • Some things looking back I wonder why none of the teachers questioned things – like when I was suspended but guess it’s always been a difficult area. Started so young I probably acted like it was normal so naturally.

      Thank you – you have always been a wonderful person and support x

      Reply
  11. Wow…what a honest and brave piece of writing. Firstly thank you for sharing this, I bet it took a lot of consideration before writing and then publishing. It is so inspiring to hear stories like yours of people turning their lives around for the better. Its stories like this that make you consider all the charities that need support, even if you’ve never had to (or been fortunate enough) not to use their services. xx

    Reply
  12. aww my lovely what a very brave post to put your emotions and feeling out there and be honest about such an awful time in your life … i am sending you the biggest hugs in the world! x

    Reply
  13. I really think this post will help so many people in similar situations and give them hope… An incredibly brave and moving post. Hugs xx

    Reply
  14. Joy, you are an incredible lady, brave as always and an inspiration to so many people. I hope you will feel more free for releasing this again – the more you get it out, the less power it will have. To see how far you have come, with your degree and your family, besides your influence on the internet is incredible. Keep going! Much love XXX

    Reply
  15. There’s nothing left to say that hasn’t been said in the comments already – but I’ll say it anyway. You have achieved far more than many ever have to and should be proud of yourself. Your past doesn’t tarnish you but to all those who failed you so deplorably. Your present is the best revenge 🙂
    From another abuse/homelessness survivor.

    Reply
    • I hope you took heed of those words yourself. I find it so easy to be positive about others but not myself. I am sorry to hear that you have suffered also but glad that you are a survivor.

      Reply
  16. You have been through so much and amazingly have come out the other side stronger, cant imagine how difficult it may have been for you to write this, but thank you for sharing x

    Reply
  17. Sharing your story shows such courage and I’m relieved that your life has improved so much. This gives a glimpse into what life is like for so many sadly, and has made me stop and think about what I do and say, and how much I should appreciate everything. You are an amazing lady, with so much strength. No-one should have to go through that 🙁

    Reply
    • I have to do the same. I have hardly experienced anything compared to so many. If I ever feel really bad I have to remind myself of that and all that is good in my life. As I say I feel so lucky. Thank you so much for your kind words.

      Reply
  18. I can not imagine the things you have been through, but kudos to you for getting counselling and trying to deal with them. I too left home at 16, but my life was very different to yours. I went in to a B&B until housing was found for me and the family treated me as though I was one of their own.

    Reply
    • I am glad you had a positive experience of leaving home so young. I think it is only now I have a 17 year old I can really appreciate how young we were.

      Thank you for commenting.

      Reply
  19. ww you have had it soo tough hunny and i totally understand, for me i was a foster child all of my life, i never felt like i belonged to anyone and basically lived my life being on my own, being 30 now, i have come to understand how many people respect the fact we brought ourselves up and how we have become someone better than who we thought we were, be strong hunny, be you and once you find yourself your life will become better

    Reply
  20. Such a fantastic post, and I can relate to a lot of it. I was lucky enough to be able to return home after walking out as a teenager and my dad welcomed me with open arms. Even after he walked in on us doing drugs on the dining room table and one day came home to gunshots in the ceiling he supported me and believed that I could be a better person. And in the end I did. I had my baby boy and again my dad stood by me, whereas the other family members were ashamed to have another teenage mum in the family (even though I was barely a teenager anymore!) and he showed me that this could be a new start… and it was. When I was homeless and stayed in a squat I met so many people that had… nothing. Literally nothing. Nowhere to go, nobody to talk to, nothing to do but try and block the pain. I can’t imagine being in that situation, because although I was homeless it was by choice, a stupid teenage choice but nonetheless. I also fell into prostitution for a while as a teenager, and looking back it makes me sick because the men were old. And I was young. Like only just a teenager. And there were men in their 40s. But we thought it was ok because they gave us drugs and alcohol as well as money. We kept what they gave us but used the money to buy food, water and sleeping bags for homeless people around London. I’ve bought the big issue since. I love buying it actually, and chatting to the people selling it, listening and hearing their stories and even though I don’t know them in a way I feel proud of what they are doing, it drives me crazy when people complain about big issue sellers. Would they rather them be sat on the floor begging? Sorry I’ve just realised what a huge ramble this blog comment has been! I do apologise! But anyway, well done you going back to your old city – very brave! I’ve never gone back to where I used to live so I can’t imagine what it’s like but I know it must have taken some courage! xx

    Reply
    • Thank you for sharing that – it really made my post the even more worthwhile. Hopefully someone else in this position could possibly stumble across this post and gleam hope. You are an inspiration and well done on how far you have come too x

      Reply
  21. I’ve got tears after reading this – you are such a strong inspirational woman Joy, you should feel so, so proud of yourself. I know this was a difficult post to hit publish on, but I hope the love and support you’re getting makes it feel like it was worth taking the risk xxx

    Reply
    • It has had an enormous impact on me. I have got so used to people not being able to deal with me (or should I say it) that they ignore it and tbh it scared me that no-one would reply, assuming I was attention seeking (which is what I was always told). So thank you so much for taking the time to comment.

      Reply
  22. This is such an inspiring post Joy. I had no idea you had been through such hard times but I’m so pleased you made it through – testament to such a strong person you are. I really admire that.

    Reply
  23. You are a brave and inspiring woman. I had no idea you had been through so much, but that is exactly the point you make. I make a real effort to buy the Big Issue and it makes me feel sad more people don’t. I am in my home.town as I type this, I feel strange about who I may bump into for what I realise now is no real reason, other than minor embarrassments, well done for facing yours. Much love and strength, saying this in public must take

    Reply
    • It is sad that homelessness has such a stigma to it – no-one decides to live that way. I would have never have thought that you would ever be anything other than confident in every situation.
      Many thanks x

      Reply
  24. I’m so pleased you’re in the BiB Finals. Like Maya Angelou, though nothing makes up for the sort of shit that’s happened to you in the past, it’s recognition that you’re speaking from a place of truth and personal power. We’ve met and I know what inner strength you have. Sorry not to be NOT sharing a room again !! x

    Reply
  25. This is really nice and moving post.
    I always buy Big Issue, sometimes 2 or 3 copies if I see more than 1 person… this is something small we can do to help… and not everyone will be brave to go on the streets selling to the public

    Reply
    • You know that’s what I thought – I had walked past and the guy was still so warm and friendly. Wished me a good day, and it made me stop and think why am I being miserable – for me it’s not really that much is it.

      Thank you for commenting.

      Reply
  26. Your story is amazing. Good for you – your resilience has helped you through so much that others would have fallen apart. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
  27. This is such an inspiring story – I can imagine it must have been difficult to write but I am sure that others will be helped by you sharing. I have worked in social housing for many years now and I am always reminded by the people that I meet that people often have stories to tell that you would never have known just by making a snap judgement looking at them. It’s always nice to hear the ones that work out in the end x

    Reply
  28. What a brave piece of writing. You have been through so much and had such a tough time, and I’m just so glad that you’re on the other side now. It must have been really difficult to write this but I hope you’ve found it helpful. The next time I see a Big Issue seller, I’ll think of you and buy a copy.

    Reply
  29. Oh Joy – I knew I connected with you for a reason. You are so brave to have written this. I to left home at 16, pregnant and into the arms of the pedophile that had groomed me. It was all I knew and I accepted his abuse for a long time. When the kids and I left we left everything and went to a hostel. It was sometimes scary, but like yourself, for us it was a bridge to another life. Love and light to you Joy – a survivor is a very special type of person, I am just saddened there are so many of us x

    Reply
  30. I grew up in the slums where the things that you described are a norm. I dont really know what to say but you are so awesome in posting this! There are so many things that I always want to write in my blogs but they stay as a private/locked post as I am afraid to be judged. You have the balls to say this and be read and … you rock. #pocolo

    Reply
    • Merlinda I am sorry to hear that this was so normal for you. You may be surprised at the positive reaction and so far (touch wood) not one negative reaction. I think if anything people ignore. I hope one day you have the strength to be judged and think you know what if people don’t like it that is their problem not yours.

      Reply
  31. Wow. I am always so very respectful and full of admiration when bloggers tell a very true story and give such an honest voice. I know it must take a lot to share something painful like this and put it out there.

    Your strength amazes me. Thank you for sharing xxx #PoCoLo

    Reply
  32. A beautiful post – I am so glad life gave you a better path than it could have ended up as. You will be a stronger and better person because of it. I was kicked out of my house when I was 16 by a mother who made no attempt to hide the fact she wished she had aborted me (her very own words). There is a reason I live 3000 miles away from where I grew up! My own story mirrors your own in many ways, and I too have come out stronger for it. Life eh, it’s a crazy old world! We can both rest assured we are giving our own children the very best we can and they never need to fear experiencing the same things we did. xx

    Reply
  33. ((hugs)) – you are very brave sharing this post. I have my own story to tell but can’t until the person involved wanders off this mortal planet so to speak. Sounds like the hostel, whilst not perfect, really does help those in need xx

    Reply
  34. I am so happy that you found the strength to escape from all the abuse and make a new life for you and your son. Thank you for sharing your story and here’s to Barnardos for helping you when you needed them.

    Reply
  35. Truly an amazing and inspiring post especially for others that may be or have gone through something similar, I salute you to have gone through such a hard time so early in life and yet to have come out the otherside x so inspiring, thank you for sharing x

    Reply
  36. Even though we have met and I know your story, this still makes me take a deep breath and remember all over again what an amazing person you are and how very brave to face up to and be able to write about your past. That you are and have dealt with so much and gone on to give a loving family home to your own is something to be so proud of. You rock lady!

    Reply
  37. Ah not sure what to say apart from this moved me. You are right, no one has the right to judge. I truly believe it’s a very fine line between all being ok and falling into homelessness, it could happen to anyone. I’m sorry you had the childhood you did, but very happy for you that you have found happiness now. It was lovely to meet you last month at the WB event and hope to see you again at Britmums 🙂 xx

    Reply
  38. Wow what a moving yet harrowing post. Just want to come and give you a cuddle. It must have been really tough writing this but in doing so you will have helped others I’m sure. You always write so beautifully. What an incredible journey you’ve had, you must be so proud of yourself and how far you’ve come. Going through all of this will have made you a much stronger and better person, I can guarantee you that. Thank you so much for sharing with #whatsthestory. Look forward to seeing you at BritMums too x

    Reply

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.