World Book Day with Streetlife: Stories from the Street

Stories from the Street explores the experiences and lives of what it might be like to find yourself homeless as a young person. As world book day draws to a close we find out more.

As you snuggle down for the evening, most of us will enjoy a warm duvet, hot water for a comforting brew, and freshwater to wash and brush our teeth. But what if those things most of us take for granted were suddenly not there anymore.

The face of homelessness for most of us is the sight of a disheveled 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 have 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. https://wearestreetlife.org/2022/02/25/blackpools-young-homeless-share-their-stories-from-the-street-in-new-book/

I asked Nathan Parker writer and youth worker who partnered with the project a few questions about the project.

q. What was the best part of being involved with Stories from the Street?

Nathan:  Getting to know young people on a deeper level, one-off workshops are great as they can inspire, this was so much deeper allowing ongoing conversations around youth work and literacy. It felt like it enabled young people to feel validated and feel ok with their stories. One of the young men said they had been embarrassed by their story, but now he knows it’s just one chapter of his life.

q: What are your hopes for the outcome of the book?
Nathan: I hope that people, organisations and practitioners anyone in the Blackpool community might be prompted to think, reflect, start to adapt, and radically change the way we operate on how we treat people. To think about how love and empathy are harnessed and look at the book and think, actually that is a human being that is a child, that maybe we can do things a bit better. The book might help people to see the great work that Streetlife does allowing more young people to tell their own stories and not be a character written by someone else.

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 taken 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.

The book costs £5 plus postage, with all the money raised going to Streetlife. It is available by emailing [email protected]. 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.”


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