My 'Normal' Life Experiencing Homelessness

Every year in the UK, around 83,000 young people experience homelessness. At 18 years old, Courteney Holly May found herself being kicked out of her home and having to find ways to survive.

Here, Courteney blogs about how she dealt with being a homeless teenager, who she went to for help, as well as what the term 'normal' means to her...

Being homeless is not what everyone expects.

You might expect there to be a safety net and people willing to help you and make sure that you’re alright, but that wasn’t my case when I was homeless. You would think that all your friends from school would help you or even just ask if you're okay, but they just ignored it and let it slip. Nobody was bothered that I was alone. Even when I asked for help, people just shuddered and said ‘what do you want me to do?’ It wasn’t just my friends who ignored me; my family didn’t even want to acknowledge that I was homeless. The school wasn’t interested either; they suspended me for “my behaviour” as I was “acting out”. Nobody was listening and I just needed some help.

Everyone’s opinion on homelessness is different, but you truly won’t understand how it feels until you experience it yourself. You don’t realise the emotional and mental pain it puts you through. It’s hard to find the words to describe such a feeling, but try to imagine; you have nothing but the clothes on your back, you have nobody to help you as they just walk past, you feel invisible to all those who you thought cared about you. You want to scream and get somebody’s attention and nobody listens, so you start over-thinking your situation in your head as you try to find shelter for the night. On top that, it's often raining and dark. The street lamps are your only source of light as you’re under the slide trying not to get wet from the rain.

If you are in a situation where you are homeless or you know someone who is, the first thing to do is to talk to somebody who can help you... and make them listen, you need to be heard. There are a lot of people who do care for you and you probably don’t even realise it. Talk to a friend, a favourite teacher, somebody who will help you, I’m lucky I found Nightstop because I don’t know where I would be if I hadn’t of found them. They provided me with care and helped me to get into supported lodgings ( St. Basils) back in 2014 and since then I have been volunteering with them so that we can help people who are homeless, and provide them with emergency accommodation. They are such a friendly bunch of people, they made me feel like I am part of the family and welcomed me with open arms.

Two years on and I have found myself a peer mentor at Nightstop, I have a full time job and have my own home (renting of course) and I’ve turned my life around. It’s not too late to turn yours around to - ask for help if you need it. I used to be so stubborn and would never ask for help, but I’m glad I did, otherwise who knows where I would be now.

- Courteney

Courteney on what 'normal' means to her...

"How can you define 'normal'? Someone with brown hair, or red? Someone with piercings, or none? Maybe they have tattoos? Who knows, but what I do know is that personally, I am far from 'normal'. I am me, and that's not normal for some people... but who cares! I love being bubbly and crazy, having multicoloured hair, piercings and tattoos because that makes me, me... This is my normal and I love it."

Courtney has also created a short film called '18'. Commissioned as a result of a partnership between the Arts Council England and Channel 4, which works with and develops 16-24 year old filmmakers through a national initiative known as First Acts, '18' gives us some insight into Courtney's personal experiences with homelessness. Find out more about First Acts here.

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