Homelessness in Sheffield has its many facets, such as rough sleeping and sofa surfing. However, one source of homelessness that is rarely examined is that resulting from care-leavers. Family breakdowns and other problems unfortunately result in many young people experiencing turbulent living conditions. It’s not unusual for me to work with young people who have faced homelessness as a result of foster family clashes, or despite having good relationships with their family, there’s still something missing for them at home. As a Sheffield housing charity, we receive referrals from a range of organisations, which makes for some really interesting and diverse stories. In terms of how best to work with this wonderful group of people, the best way to do it is by not having a set method at all. Every person I work with is individual, and the same goes for people who are care-leavers – assumptions should be left at the door. One particular case I will focus on is a young man from another city who was referred to Nomad as a result of family breakdown, Sheffield offered many opportunities that were relevant to his interests. Although the topic of his adopted parents was a sensitive one for him, he began to realise his strengths and resilience that had helped him to survive some pretty harsh times in his life. Let’s call him Steven for the sake of confidentiality. Steven was 24, had an established friendship group in his hometown and knew his biological mother but rarely spoke to her – he had an unpredictable relationship with his foster family so decided it was time to leave. That’s where I come in. As Steven was new to Sheffield, he asked if our first session could be spent exploring some of the key places in the city centre, to help him get his bearings. Armed with a hot chocolate in one hand and a notebook in the other, we began our expedition. Subsequently, Steven began to leave his accommodation when he was bored, just so he could explore more parts of Sheffield. I told him that getting out and about can work wonders for one’s mental health, and he agreed.
A month later, I found Steven an opportunity with a local boy scout troop (based off his previous interests and experiences of loving survival techniques and working with young children). Steven began volunteering here on a weekly basis, met other volunteers his own age and as a result, made some genuine and exciting new friendships. He met with me each week and he always had fresh and warming new stories of what he had been teaching the children – he loved it so much that he enrolled to do a team leading qualification through the scouts so he could potentially gain paid employment there in the future. Throughout the time Steven worked with me, it was a pleasure to see not only his confidence grow, but I noticed that he spoke less about his negative experiences of being a care-leaver and spoke more about his social circle, ever-increasing skill set and that he was happy here in Sheffield with the life that he was building for himself.
He has his setbacks - but the amazing thing is, he doesn't let this stop him.
He decided that he would love to have his own flat in the city and a stable income so he could eventually become self-sufficient, so we set to work on jazzing up his CV. Steven had a few jobs during our time together, including retail, hospitality and bar work which all made for excellent additions to his work experience. He also began saving some of his earnings, as well as being able to afford to go to exciting events with his Sheffield friendship group. He could also afford to visit his old friendship group back in his previous town which he was thrilled about. As a result of our coaching sessions, not only did Steven volunteer, gain 3 different jobs, 1 leadership qualification, gain knowledge of a new city and a new social circle, he also found out ways of managing his mental health more effectively. Steven is still learning how to be kinder to himself when he’s having a bad day, and has even chosen to visit his biological mother every now and again as he now feels mentally stable enough to do so. Steven first saw his status as a care leaver as a disadvantageous label, he now sees himself as a resilient young man whose life experience up to this point puts him head and shoulders above his peers. Don’t get me wrong, he has his down days and encounters setbacks and problems with the goals he sets for himself; the amazing thing about Steven is that he doesn’t let this stop him. If you need support with anything in this blog, or if you need housing, get in touch with Nomad.