Ben’s* life was chaotic from an early age. But living at the YMCA brought stability and the opportunity to turn his life around.
*Name and photo have been changed to protect the identity of the young person
“My childhood was unsettled by my parents’ stormy relationship resulting in their divorce. They both used me as a weapon to get at each other with violent fights over who would see us and who owned what so I ran away when I was 14.
I stayed at random people’s houses and dealt drugs to support myself. I ended up taking them myself. But in this vulnerable state I was abused whilst staying at one man’s house. Because I lived in a small town this soon got back to my family who took me back home but the damage was already done. I was addicted to heroin and taking other drugs to block out reality.
Living with my Mum turned bad after the divorce. She started laying into me and I had a nervous breakdown. I was sectioned but the hospital took me off all my medication apart from methadone and kicked me out. I had nowhere to live, and a mental health problem with no support or medication.
I started sofa surfing and sleeping rough until thankfully I was able to move into the local YMCA. They gave me two meals a day and a comfortable room to stay in. I got support from the Housing team and I was offered counselling. I lived at the YMCA for about two years, before moving on to live more independently at another YMCA property. I lived there for 18 months until I was offered a house by the local council. I’m now finished with drugs and working part time.
If I hadn’t had a room at the YMCA then I don’t know where I would be today, probably laying dead in a gutter.”