Please be aware this piece contains references to sexual assault and rape, which some people may find distressing.
On her experience of housing
At 15 when I hit puberty, everything went out the window. Me and my mum were arguing all the time, and she got stressed. We’ve both got mental health problems so it was just lots of arguments. I’ve got two younger siblings, so my mum said ‘you need to move out, because it’s not good them seeing us arguing all the time’.
I was sofa-surfing, between my friends and my Nan. Housing said I wasn’t old enough yet, the only thing they could offer was foster care, and I didn’t want to do that – I was too old for that. So I ended up just sofa-surfing between my Nan’s and a couple of places for two years.
Then I went back to the council because I couldn’t stay with my Nan – I was putting her tenancy at risk by living there. I was three months off being 18 then, so they said ‘come back when you’re 18’.
I got referred to a project that works with young people at risk of homelessness then, who referred me to a mixed hostel for anyone over 18. It’s in an area where there are all the drug dealers and sex workers and sexual exploitation.
I knew a few people there so I thought it would be ok at first. There were a few lads I got on with, but then I started getting in trouble. The lads would get a bit overexcited having a girl around, you know what lads are like.
The staff pulled me aside one day and said ‘maybe you should put more clothes on’, which I didn’t think was right because why weren’t the lads being told not to treat a woman like that?
One night there was one old man, about 42, in one of the communal areas who tried to kiss me. And he’d been telling me earlier he had a daughter about my age! So I hit him, and then security came in, and said I was being reckless and causing problems. I don’t understand how I can get abused and I’m the one being kicked out.
The project for young people I’d originally been referred to understood I was at risk, and that wasn’t a safe decision – they said, in the end, ‘we shouldn’t have put you there’.
So then I went to young people’s supported housing, for 16 to 25-year-olds, boys and girls. There are pros and cons to both. You’re allowed to have friends there, it’s nice – it felt more like a home and not like a prison.
I met a few people there. I had a good time, but there was a lot of drama. Always about men, I was always in the middle. Because there are loads of lads, they see a female – ‘you were a new fish in the pond’, that’s what they said. I said, ‘it’s wrong – you shouldn’t speak about women like that’.
In the hostel, it was bad because of the age gaps. One girl I knew there, she had inappropriate comments, inappropriate touching, had her arse slapped. She warned me, she said ‘don’t come in drunk, they’ll take advantage.’ The older women kept themselves to themselves, they knew what it was like. They felt violated every time they left their room.
Then I found out I got a letter from the council saying I could get a flat, so I moved out. I went and viewed a flat. I said there were areas where I couldn’t be, where ex-boyfriends were, and that I wanted to be near my mum. Even though this flat was about as far away from my mum as you could get, I decided to take it so I moved in and got the keys.