The face of homelessness for most of us is the sight of a dishevelled duvet in a doorway or an outstretched hand requesting a few coins.
But how do people end up without a roof over their heads in a society where there should be ample accommodation for all?
Blackpool’s Streetlife charity has helped hundreds of youngsters, aged between 18 and 25 (and many as young as 16) over the 30 years since its shelter in St John’s Square opened.
And now those who have used this safe haven in their darkest moments, have shared their stories in a book.
Stories from the Street has been written and illustrated by young people, under the guidance of author, poet and youth worker Nathan Parker.
They have written honest accounts about their personal journeys into homelessness, and were among those invited to the book’s launch held at the Old Electric on Springfield Road in Blackpool.
The collection comes straight from the heart, and is a no holds barred narrative of how young people can find themselves adrift due to reasons out of their control.
Triggers range from parental disputes to abusive relationships, with some teenagers coming from outwardly loving homes yet unable to stay in them, or faced with the heartbreak of parents who have literally closed the door in their face.
Jane Hugo, chief executive of Streetlife, said she hoped people would read the book and “think again about why young people are homeless.”
She said: “It was really important they were comfortable with the whole process, so it has take time to develop trust and make sure they are secure with what is in the book.
“It was important they were comfortable with what was said if someone from their family was to read it.”
The book, with each story told anonymously under the Streetlife Collective authorship, has taken a year to complete.
Jane said: “I hope it will give people an insight into how young people end up in difficulties, the challenges along the road and how they get out of it.
“It’s not rainbows and unicorns at the end, but it shows how resilient young people are and how they get stronger for the next challenge they face.”
Nathan Parker aims to make literacy accessible in his youth work which includes visiting schools as well as supporting Streetlife.
He believes “everyone has a story to tell” and encouraged the young people to put pen to paper. The book’s illustrator is also part of the Streetlife Collective.
Nathan said of the project: “I have visibly seen young people grow in confidence.
“There was a time when young people would hide their story because there was an embarrassment about sharing it, but they have all collaborated on this.
“When we set out on the project, the intention was to celebrate young people and Streetlife which is 30 this year.
“But it was also to identify gaps in the system where things might have been different.
“These stories will unlock emotions in people who read them that will help, and other young people will read the book and see that things can change for the better.”
The book costs £5 plus postage, with all the money raised going to Streetlife. It is available by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here’s what some of the young people say in the book
“I just know that without the non-judgemental support of Streetlife, who understood my circumstances perhaps more than I did at times. and stood by me when I went a little off the rails, things could be a whole lot bleaker”.
Another writer recalls being told to leave home as a teenager, after a row with their mum. “And within minutes I found myself out on the streets with no family to call, no connections, just aimlessly walking the pavements with my mum’s condemning words echoing around my mind.”
A young person who had been taken into care recalls: “As much as we fought and argued, being taken away from my mum, my home, from all I’d ever known was an awful experience. In the blink of an eye everything had changed.”
Rejection when asking for a place to stay is harsh for some of the writers. “Dad said no, closing the door on his face, quite literally, along with the idea of having a safe roof over his head with his father.”
It costs around £450,000 a year to run Streetlife, with the current funding due to run out in March 2023. Bids will be submitted over the next year to replace it.
The night shelter provides eight emergency beds for 18 to 25 year-olds, although it can take people as young as 16.
The charity also operates a day centre in Buchanan Street and has a house where youth workers live. There are 10 staff and a team of volunteers.