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Real life stories

Our storyteller George is out there every day speaking to real people about their experiences of homelessness. Read and share these stories below and tell us why you're supporting our Everybody In campaign.

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After my nan died, I went to the council and explained that I'd been living with her, but she'd been renting her place and I wasn't on any of the paperwork. I couldn't prove my connection to the area, and so I became homeless. I couldn't believe I was being turned away... My mates let me stay with them at first, but after a while there was tension. I slept on the streets for three days - I slept in parks... I stayed in a hotel for two months... Then I was moved to a hostel – I was there for two years... In the hostel, a friend suggested I go to a football session... I did an eight-week training course at Arsenal. On the leaflet for the course, it said, ‘You could be chosen to play for England.’ By the end of the course I'd forgotten all about that. I’d just enjoyed being on the course. But then three days later I got a phone-call from a guy asking me, 'Do you have a passport'? And then he said: 'You're coming to Mexico for the Homeless World Cup'. I went crazy – I was like, Yeah!'

Read Scott's story. now

'I don’t know what the future’s going to hold, but for the first time, there’s optimism... I think that’s my advice to anyone. As much as you go through in life, you can change. It’s not easy. All my life I quit on things. It’s only this last year I haven’t... I had friends round for dinner last week and I cooked for them. I’ve not done that before. It was amazing. We had desert and watched some films. It was just a really nice, normal thing to do in my own house. I felt like I was back. My relationship with my mum has improved a lot in the last year too. I hadn’t made her proud of me before this, and that’s all I’ve ever really wanted. Three weeks ago I passed my PETALS teaching course, and my mum phoned me up and said, I’m really proud of you. That got me'

Read Greg's story now

'There was no formal eviction notice... Then he started to harass me. They were banging on the doors, banging the windows. Shouting at me to leave. In the end I went to the Citizens Advice Bureau, and I got tremendous help from the Law Centre. They got in touch with the landlord and took him to court twice because he hadn’t given me the legal eviction notice called Section 21... When I left it was awful. The locks were changed and the door closed behind me for good. Saying goodbye to all my neighbours. I couldn’t believe it was happening. I just felt lost... I went from working and living in my own home to living in a hotel, homeless, with no job. I couldn’t believe what my life had come to.'

Read Tracy's story. now

'From growing up on a council estate I was suddenly a director of one of the biggest post-production companies in London... It was a good thing, but on reflection it was way too early. I was probably doing a job that I should have been doing in my fifties, as I am now, rather than in my late twenties. I was also earning way over £100,000 a year, but I was too immature, and I didn’t know how to deal with the responsibility.... We had a beautiful rural house in Kent with land, a second investment property, two cars, two motorbikes and a speedboat. I thought money was easy come, easy go... Then the bottle started to creep in, and I was on the slippery slope downhill. Gradually I started to lose all sense of control and normality, but it took a long time, because I had the money to keep doing it.'

Read Bill's story. now

'There’s a lot going on for me now. It’s amazing. I’ve gone from that drunk, nobody wanted to know, to having my life back on track. People who know me can’t believe it. Have we got the right Adel? They ask. They can’t believe how much I’ve changed. But I wanted to change my life around. I got fed up of being on the streets. I got fed up of it all. There’s only so much of it you can take. I took years of it, and I’m not taking it anymore. It’s time for me now. I’ve wasted most of my life. It’s time to live it now.'

Read Adel's story now

'I grew up in Scotland but came to England when I was seven. My dad was a lorry driver. He’s gone now. My mum lives in East Sussex near my sister. A small village. It’s beautiful down there. Last Friday was when I found out she had cancer. I hadn’t spoken with her in two years. I’ve got a little phone and I spoke with her again today. My sister picked up the call and said, mum’s asleep, so I said, tell her I’ll phone back later. Then she woke up, and she was grabbing the phone, saying, James, James! She was so happy. I had to hide under my blankets, so people wouldn’t see my tears. I promised I’d see her soon. Every time I came out of jail she was always there with a hug for me. Always forgiving. I was fifteen years old when I got my first prison sentence. It started with robbing chocolate from shops when I was a kid. By the time I was twelve I’d worked out that I could start certain cars with my front door keys. I had my mum’s house searched for stolen goods when I was fourteen. Where I grew up there were lots of people around me doing that kind of thing, but I don’t know why I went down that road for so long.'

Read Jimmy's story (1) now

'When you go through homelessness, you lose your sense of community and family. It's hard to talk to your family about your experiences... I've made such good friends through doing football. Knowing that you've experienced the same stuff makes that bond stronger. You feel a sense of closure. Your confidence comes back. 2018 has been a year of big changes for me. I'm now living in a Housing Association flat, and just one week after I moved there I got a job at a gym on the same street. Now I've been selected to play in the Homeless World Cup in Mexico later this year. When I got the phonecall I was like 'Woah!' I'm so excited!'

Read Raph's story. now

'It’s really too hot, it’s about thirty degrees I think, maybe even more. I can’t even sit down for too long to try and make enough money for someone to stay, or anything like that, because the ground is so hot I’m scalding my arse for one, and two, if I am sitting down I can’t sit down for no longer than half an hour because I end up burning up and dehydrating. It’s good to see you bought me a bottle of water. I need to drink that to keep hydrated cos otherwise I’ll just pass out and get sunstroke. That’s the last thing I need at the minute.'

Read Derek's story. now

'Before my mum and dad died, I was trying to start my own business, but since then it’s been too much to take. I was drinking too much to deal with the stress at one point, but thankfully having my dog has helped me stop that now. My dad actually ended up dying of drink. His liver failed, and I don’t want that to happen to me. When I was in the B&B I had to leave my dog at my mum’s house, but I would still go back every day to walk and feed him... It was like the movie Trainspotting in there. Everyone seemed to be a drug addict. There was thick black mould across the ceiling, coming down the walls and in the cupboards. It didn’t even have any curtains... it was horrible. I always feel like I get a new lease of life going out walking with him in the country. I think he’s the only thing that’s been keeping me sane.'

Read Jordan's story now

'Luckily, I’ve still got my HGV license and have finally managed to find a driving job, so now I can get out of the system, but being here you start to realise that bridge just doesn’t exist for most people. I wouldn’t be able to afford my own place without a permanent job. Housing benefit doesn’t cover it, minimum wage isn’t enough, and a zero hours contract makes it almost impossible. There are also very few opportunities for education while you’re here, and even less support if you do get out, so lots of people just end up going through the whole cycle again. It’s almost like they want you to come back. Even I’m not certain I’ll be able to pay private rents forever. I know lots of people who feel it’s better for people to just stay in the hostel, even the people who run them, because they know there’s no real alternative for them outside. Homeless people have become commodities now.'

Read Ashley's story. now

'I’ve been in this hostel seven times now. Before this time the council had found me a privately rented bedsit, but it was infested, and there was damp and mould everywhere. The windows were falling apart. Even some of the doors were on upside down. Environmental health came out three times to check it, but the landlord wasn’t prepared to pay the money to make it habitable, so he just gave me an eviction notice... It’s wrecked my life being ill. I hate it, but it’s just because of the way I’ve been treated. I had a life that’s been take away from me. What I really want is a secure, clean place, with a decent bathroom you can actually use. With nice people that don’t take drugs. I don’t want to live in a rough place away from everyone I know. I don’t want to be lonely again.'

Read AJ's story now

'I’m trying to be self-sufficient, and I’m hoping to get a place for me and the kids soon, but I had to wait six weeks for universal credit after I was evicted. If I had been able to get help sooner, maybe none of this would have happened. All my stuff is stored outside my friend’s house at the moment but I have to chuck most of it out because I can’t store it there anymore. I’ve even had to chuck lots of the kids stuff out too which is really painful. When all this is over I’m hoping to train as fitness instructor, so I’ll be able to pick myself up anytime without relying on anyone else. I feel positive about that at least. Helping other people. Building up their confidence. They can’t take that away from me'

Read Mithra's story now

'I was also seeing a guy who was thirty-three at the time, and when I left care at sixteen I went to Derbyshire to live with him. He was a drug dealer, but I thought he was a bad boy and I liked that. It seemed glamourous to me. There was a group of us living in the same house together. Loads of awful things happened there. There was a lot of sexual abuse going on that I still find difficult to talk about. His ex-wife left him because he’d been looking at their daughter who was only a year younger than me in a suspicious way. That was also when I started using drugs, but I didn’t realise I was getting addicted until it was too late.'

Read Nicola's story now

'I’ve been in all the hostels in Glasgow over the years. They say hostels drive you to drink and drugs, and it’s true. You need a drink just to get your head down. I was in a hostel when one of the Housing First workers came and spoke with me. I was always in an out of jail before that. A week here, a week there. Just a couple of days sometimes. It was constant, in and out, in and out. It was all petty stuff, stealing and things, but now I’ve been out for two years. I’ve never lasted that long, and that’s thanks to Housing First. They’ve helped me do everything. The hostels and shelters are just get in and get out, but these guys are different. If I wasn’t working with them I’m sure I’d still be in jail.'

Read Kevin's story now

'Knowing I’ve got a secure tenancy on my own place which I don’t have to share with strangers is incredible. Just to be anonymous again was a big relief. I live in a normal community away from old influences. I have my own keys and I manage my own home. I know I could still get evicted, but having that responsibility has always made me not do anything to risk that. Just knowing that people believe in you and are prepared to give you that respect makes a huge difference. I’ve got a roof over my head, I’m able to get on with my neighbours, I have food and electricity. That makes me feel quite blessed now.'

Read Eric's story. now

'I’m lucky I’ve got a good support network around me now, but a lot of people that have had their children taken away have been abused as children themselves or never had parents before. Social services did the right thing taking my daughter away because she was being hurt, but I’m not eighteen anymore. There are people out there like me trying to give their children a better life than they had when they were young, but then their children are being taken away because of the life they had as children. A lot of child abuse comes down to not having the confidence to be a parent in the first place, but instead of stepping in earlier and helping them to improve as a parent, social services just take the kids away. I know from experience that kids can get far more screwed up by the system than they do at home.'

Read Sav's story now

'When I came to be released, I asked what I should do, but they didn’t seem that interested. They just gave me a train ticket to Cardiff and said I should go to the council and register as homeless. All I had to my name was twenty pounds from working in the prison kitchen, two pairs of trousers and a couple of t-shirts. I waited five hours at the housing office to explain what had happened, but they just sent me to a homeless shelter in town. They told me I was lucky to get a space there, but it was quite a shock. You see these places on the television, but to actually be in there yourself is very different. There were a lot of drugs and alcohol, and I had to tip-toe over all these people sleeping in the corridors. Opening the toilet door and seeing someone sitting there with a needle in their arm is horrible.'

Read Paul's story now

'My wife and I were together for ten years, but every time we had a fight she would either throw cups at me, or I would get punched, kicked, head-butted. Then about four years ago she stabbed me. We had been out one night together and when we got home she came out of the kitchen with a knife in one hand, and a hammer in the other, saying she was going to kill me. She threw the hammer first, and I managed to dodge that, but then she came charging at my face with the knife, and the next thing I remember was waking up in hospital.'

Read Jonathon's story now

'We stayed in a couple of B&B’s when we first got here while we tried to register for housing benefit, but that was two months ago now, and we’ve just been bounced us from one place to another ever since. Basically, because we’ve got no local connection we were told we weren’t eligible for any help at all, and because we’ve got no substance abuse or serious mental health problems we’re not entitled to emergency accommodation either. We gave them all the details from the police, but it took them six weeks for them to follow it up properly, and by that time we’d been forced to move into a tent in the park, just to try and preserve the little money we had. It’s good that we’ve got each other. I think if one of us had been on our own we would have given up by now.'

Read Thomas & Ruth's story now

'Twenty-four years I was in this life of addiction and homelessness; of delusion and rationalisation. Anything to stay away from the truth. It was always someone else’s problem, not mine. It was just an insane nightmare. Now people often come up to me and say, I want what you have. When they do, I give them my number, tell to call me anytime, promise them I’ll help get them through this, and I really mean it. Helping other people is my purpose in life now. That brings a kind of happiness I've never known. I’ve always been a control freak, but now I’ve given up that control; it’s like a new beginning. I’ve gone from everything being black and white to having this kaleidoscope of colour over my eyes, and it’s amazing.'

Read Christian's story now

'I stayed on a friend’s sofa at first, but you quickly end up feeling like a burden to people. I didn’t want to overstay my welcome, and I still had that bit of pride that I could do things on my own, so I moved into a B&B, just so I had a roof over my head. The B&B was ok, but I was soon working fifty or sixty hours a week just to pay for the room, and for basics like travel and food. However hard I tried it was completely impossible to save enough money. I started to worry I’d be stuck in that B&B forever, so I went to the housing officer and told them my situation, but they just said that because I was in full-time work they couldn’t help me. I explained that I just needed help with the deposit, but they said there was nothing they could do for someone in my situation, even if I had to sleep on the streets to save the money myself, so that’s what I had to do.'

Read Adam's story now

'If it hadn’t been for my writing I think I would have been dead by now. I got referred by the Job Centre to a creative writing class to help with my depression during the court case and that’s when it all started. Writing has been the best therapy possible. I was suicidal at times. Every two weeks just praying the benefit payment will come in time, so I can pay my bills and still stay in my house. I channelled all those emotions into the books. Three years later I’ve published three novels and the fourth one will come out soon.'

Read James's story. Two weeks away from homelessness. now

'My partner and I were living in a B&B together, but she had an accident and tipped over the kettle onto her leg. She had to have a skin graft on her thigh which meant she was in hospital for two weeks. I explained the situation to the manager but even if you miss curfew for one night you’re at risk of being booked out. We were sharing a double room together and because there are so few of them available they said they couldn’t wait until she was discharged. They didn’t care. I know they’re short of space. They’re even putting people in hotels at the moment, but I just don’t understand it. I think they were hoping the hospital would find us somewhere to stay but she didn’t get any help at all.'

Read Donald's story now

'I got released from prison a week ago but I had nowhere to go because I had broken up with my girlfriend before I got arrested. I was on remand for five weeks and when it came to court I wasn’t sentenced but there wasn’t any advice about housing or anything like that. There was no help. They never said anything to me. They just let me out. I’ve been on the street ever since. No one knows I’m here but there’s not really anyone to tell. I grew up in Kent and my parents put me into care when I was eleven. I lived in a residential school in Chelmsford until I was sixteen. My mum had been ill a lot of the time and my dad was never there. Even when they were together I remember they used to sleep in separate bedrooms. I think they decided that I was just another problem for them. I hated my mum and dad for putting me in that situation. I was an only child so I didn’t have any brothers or sisters to turn to. For an eleven-year old boy it was really confusing. I felt disowned. After I left care I tried to go back home for a while but it was clear they still didn’t want me around, so I just left.'

Read Christopher's story now

'I’ve been to the council here four or five times but because I’ve got no friends or family in the area they always said I’m not entitled to any help from them. The people who’ve been the nicest to me have actually been the local police. In the end two police officers came to the council with me and said it was against my human rights what they were doing to me. That’s what it took to make them change their mind. After that they said they should be able to give me somewhere next week. It’s taken six months but I can’t wait. I’d never been homeless before. I had no idea what it was like. I’ve actually got a job in the Highland Hotel waiting for me as soon as I move in. It’s only a dishwasher but it’s still a job. I got it while I was homeless but until I get that address I’m not allowed to start work.'

Read William now

'I had a break down when I was thirty-seven. After three years of being thrown around by mental health services I was feeling completely despondent but then one day my social worker suggested that I write down in a letter about how I was feeling. The first two lines read, How would you feel sir and what would you do, if the world was just grey with no shades of blue? As I wrote more I realised I was writing poetry. I also saw how much I was learning about my own mental health and how it’s not just a personal thing but something that everyone needs to talk about. I performed that poem at an open mic in Margate three years ago and the reaction I got was awesome. The pub was packed and I was shaking but I liked it so much I carried on and since then everything has gone bananas. I wrote mainly about mental illness in the beginning but it was so cathartic that I started to write about other things I’d experienced like homelessness, and everything just went from there. Now I perform to crowds all over the country and I’m the Poet in Residence here at Crisis.'

Read Stefan's story now

'I was living in a council flat with my partner two years ago but the relationship became psychologically abusive. In the end he ended up trying to strangle me but the police said there wasn’t enough proof to charge him, so when I went to the council they said I would be making myself intentionally homeless If I left him, which meant they had no duty to help me at all. I was too scared to go back so I had to sleep rough for six months before I was eligible for even temporary accommodation. Eventually I got a place in a B&B for homeless people but I was bullied so badly by the other residents that I had to leave there too. There were both men and women and lots of them were alcoholics or drug addicts. I had my nose broken once and I caught one of the women in there trying to put vodka in my fruit juice because she knew I was a recovering alcoholic myself. When I complained to the manager they threw me out for making false allegations. They didn’t want to know. The woman that did it had been there so long and was so old I just think they thought it would be easier if I was on the street instead of her.'

Read Lorraine's story now

'There’s a lot of people in the shelter that didn’t look like they were homeless. I’m 26 and I probably wasn’t the youngest either. I went to the council two days ago when I realised I had nowhere to sleep that night. They said they couldn’t help me until the following morning but they gave me the address of a church. At first I thought I wouldn’t go. It sounded too depressing. I thought I would just stay on the street but it was too cold. There were a lot of drunk people. Just shouting and bawling all night. Forty or fifty people on foam mattresses. I only got about 20mins sleep. I stayed for two nights then said to the volunteers that I wouldn’t be back. Five years ago I was going through a really hard time and I tried to kill myself. I’ve never felt that bad again until I got in there. I didn’t’ know where I’d go but I couldn’t stay there anymore. The reality hit me.'

Read William's story now

MJ

'I beat myself up all the time with guilt and anger because it was me who contacted them. I constantly think to myself if only I hadn’t phoned them this may never have happened. I wasn’t doing so badly. I was drinking too much but the kids were clean and well fed and they had their mum. At least what I was being as a mum at the time. I knew that wasn’t fair on them. But that's why I asked for help. They should never have taken them away from me. I was a single parent to three kids struggling with grief after my sister died. She was my closest friend and she was given two months to live. It was so quick. She was always the one that kept the family together and after she died we broke apart. I just needed a wee bit of support to put things right but instead of helping me they decided to take the kids away which made everything so much worse.'

Read MJ's story now

'I was married for 18 years but it turned into a very abusive relationship. It was more psychological than anything else. He tried to control every part of my life. It’s hard to explain what it was like. My son is only one and a half but my husband wasn’t a bad father and when I left I had nowhere to go so I left him at home while I tried to find my own accommodation. I went to the council and they put me in a hostel but it was controlled by another woman who was always drunk. She would bang on the doors and scream all the time. I was always afraid. I could never sleep. It was horrible. After two weeks I went to the council to ask for somewhere else but they said there was nothing available and if I didn’t go back I would be intentionally homeless. I was too scared. I didn’t want to be around those people. It was making everything worse not better. My mental health was really struggling and I was beginning to turn to drink myself. I had help from a CPN but unless you’re about to jump off a cliff the doctors don’t really want to know. They just don’t have time to listen to your story.'

Read Claire's story now

'Football was all I cared about from when I left nursery at four years old. They couldn’t distract me with anything else. I never learnt anything at school. I just wanted to do sport. Girls didn’t play football back then though so I always had to play with the boys. I could do things with the ball that none of them could do, but I had to pretend I wasn't a girl to play with them. All the other boys called me Dennis. When I got to ten or eleven it started to become awkward. I’d have to go the matches in my kit because I couldn’t go into the changing room. I never saw another girl play in the boys team ever. I played netball as well but that was only because the school wrote a letter to my mum saying that unless I did some more feminine pastimes I wouldn’t be allowed to play football at all.'

Read Denise's story now

'Last night I stayed awake all night in a staircase. I can’t sleep at all when it’s really cold like this. If you sit or lie down you freeze so I just kept moving around until security moved me on in the morning. I’ve been sleeping here about seven months now. This is my first winter. The cold is not easy. Sometimes I’ll wake up in the morning and I can’t feel my hands they’re so numb even though I’ve got gloves on. It’s affected my health badly. I get ill a lot quicker now. My breathing has got worse. Two of my front teeth have fallen out through infection. They were good before I started sleeping out here. If you get a cold or a cough it takes much longer to go away. I don’t drink or take drugs. I’m just trying to make some money to get into a backpackers hostel tonight. If it snows I cover myself up or go and stand under a shelter until it stops. I’ll even sit here with an umbrella. Sometimes I’ll have to go and stand in a phone box or sit in public toilet to warm up a bit. When I got back this morning someone had moved the sheets of my stuff and everything had got soaking wet. If I don’t make enough to get into somewhere tonight I don’t know what I’ll do.'

Read David's story now

'Usually I find the noise worse than the cold but when it’s freezing like this I try to make just enough to get into a backpackers hostel. The winter shelters are not nice places. Forty men stuffed into a church hall. Lots of them are on drugs and drink. I’d rather stay on the street than go there. Plenty of other people out here are doing the same thing. Especially the women. But if I don't make enough I may have no choice. There are some heating vents you can find near the station but people do die out here.'

Read Billy's story now

Kev

'People think we’re evil villains but we’re not. We can actually bring out the best in people if we get the chance, but I’ve had old age pensioners throwing shopping trolleys at me. I came back one day and someone had poured creosote and bleach over all my belongings. People spit at you and the security guards bully you and threaten you all the time. You feel like you can’t respond in any way or you might get arrested though. It’s like you don’t have the same rights somehow. When people speak to me they see I’ve got brains, but people give up on you. They just want you off the street. I was asleep with my head facing the wall down here once and someone kicked me in the back of the head. I asked the police to look at the CCTV but they just said, you shouldn’t be homeless.'

Read Kev's story now

'My wife and I had a bit of crazy relationship really. We were married for 23 years and we had four kids but eventually we broke up when I was 61. I only had my state pension and the problem was I still had a tenancy on the house we shared so I was classed as intentionally homeless by the council. I slept in my Volvo for 3 weeks until I got reversed into by a lorry while I was sleeping in a lay-by and after that I took my tent into the woods and found a quite place where no one could find me. I was lucky in a way because I had my pension for food, and in winter it was just a matter of careful insulation, but there were lots of other people in worse situations. You don't realise how many of them there are until you look for them.'

Read Austen's story now

'Maybe because of the problems I had at home I think I always found it easier to walk away from difficult situations than engage with them, and when I was growing up I think being a tramp appealed in a way. I never thought I’d end up on the streets but escaping from other people seemed like a lifestyle of freedom. After a while of actually living that way though you realize you’re just running away from things and it catches up with you. You can’t survive on your own and I found that out the hard way. It’s very lonely experience being on the street. People walk past you like you were born and bred there, as if you’re just a fixture of the environment, like a grit box. I don’t think a lot of people realize how easy it is to find yourself in that situation. Until I had my art I was afraid of other people. It was only when I found a way to connect with them that I began to get over my fear, and now I know I’d be lost without them.'

Read Julian's story now

'When I left university in the early sixties, I thought I might try to become an actor, but then my partner Julian took me to some clubs that had drag artists performing, and so I started doing that instead. I made my own dresses which were very elaborate, often pink or purple, and I’d wear a huge wig of course, and I would dance and sing all the popular musical songs in various clubs in London. I liked good quality drag, it was all very artistic. There was such a magic about the sixties. I loved it, it was all very exciting. The drag shows were extremely popular, but you had to be careful as there was still a lot of prejudice back then. I would perform in gay venues of course but you couldn’t be too open about it as there was often police outside the nightclubs and many of the owners would have to go out after they shut in the evening and give them money to stay quiet.'

Read Terry's story now

'I’ve always struggled with dyslexia. I still can’t read and write properly and I can’t add up very well either. I can’t even remember my own telephone number. When I was school I just didn’t have a clue what they were on about. Especially in maths. I never learnt anything. I was a bit boisterous and I just got the cane all the time. The teacher would say you’re nothing but a waste of space and kick me out of class. I spent most of my childhood in the cloakroom. They didn’t know about dyslexia then. The just thought I was being difficult for the sake of it.'

Read Lawrie's story now

'My whole life journey has been about trying to find out who I am and where I belong. I think that’s what everyone is looking for. To feel worthwhile, to have dignity and self-respect, but these simple things that everyone aspires towards become like a dream. I was local in Ilford for over twenty years but I never felt like a local. Never felt like part of a community. I never understood why I couldn’t connect with other people, but maybe it was because I didn’t have a home or family where I had the opportunity to connect. The world has become smaller in many ways but the walls within our hearts and souls have risen. We don’t understand why we separate ourselves from other people. It’s a kind of fear of being excluded, which actually makes us exclude others. Fear of the unknown is the greatest barrier to life. The only way we can address a barrier like homelessness is knowing the truth, and wanting to know it. Sharing experiences and stories helps us see how similar we are, then we can see there’s nothing to fear other than our own misperceptions.'

Read Neil's story now

'I walked out of my marriage after 21 years. My husband had an accident in the Navy and had to retire early. He was happy go lucky before that but I just don’t think he could accept his injury. He was only in his forties and his personality changed completely. He couldn’t cope with being home all the time and dealing with family life after spending months away at sea. If I didn’t do what he wanted he was physically abusive and tried to control everything I did. I used to hide what was going from the kids. My mum was the only one who knew all about it. I’ve only got one cousin who I speak with occasionally, but apart from that I’ve got no one else. I reported him to the police a few times but they always believed him. I stayed until the children were older but then one day last year I’d just had enough and I walked out. It wasn’t planned. I didn’t know where to go. All my clothes are still there.'

Read Lorna's story now

Les

'I was born in a mental hospital. My mum had a lot of mental health problems and my dad would hit all of us. He even hit the dog. It was ok when he wasn’t there but when he’d get back from work I was scared. Everytime my mum tried to get away he would find her and bring her back, and then we’d get beaten up because we tried to leave. We called the police but he would lie to them and they always believed him over us.'

Read Les's story now

'I joined the navy in 1973 at 15 years old. We had a year's training first, and that’s where I met my best mate Gary. We joined the HMS Ganges in Ipswich together. I was a radio operator and he was in ordinance, guarding the missiles. We went all over the world. Singapore, India, America, The Middle East, The Mediterranean. We delivered arms and supplied gun support during the civil war in Lebanon. We even guarded the Royal Yacht all around the Caribbean. It was stressful at times but we loved the sea life. After one seagoing mission, we were assigned to remove the missiles from the ship before docking in Chatham. My friend was operating a huge hydraulic hoist to move them, but one of the petty officers set the machine motion without warning us. I managed to get out the way just in time and grabbed him by the hand but he was too slow and it crushed him to death in front of me.'

Read Mark's story. now

'Lloyd is lovely. I love her to bits. I look forward to seeing her every year. I was nineteen when I first came to Crisis. I couldn’t go home to my family and I was just roaming the streets with nowhere else to go. It was terrible. I was sleeping rough for fifteen years in total, but Crisis helped me get into a shelter and I’ve been coming here every Christmas for the last twenty-eight years now. I had a stroke when I was thirty and I can’t walk anymore, but I still like to come every year. I love the singing and the karaoke and all the nice people like Lloyd. I don’t have any family with me, so if I didn’t have Crisis I’d just be on my own.'

Read Vicki & Lloyd's story now

'I was the Amateur Boxing Association Welterweight Champion when I was younger. I started when I was nine years old as a junior and became the London Schoolboy’s Champion before going on to win the senior title when I was nineteen. I had 225 fights in total. I won 215, only lost 9, drew 1, and I was never knocked out in the ring. A lot of my opponents from back then went on to turn professional and had good careers. Now they’ve got houses and cars and I’ve been on the streets for nearly thirty years. I’ve been in and out of hostels a lot but mainly I just sleep on the street. Christmas Eve I slept in a phone box.'

Read Danny's story now

'This is a phenomenal Christmas. It’s my first real Christmas in recovery, and it feels incredible. When I was on the streets the only thing I ever thought about at Christmas was that by next year I might have sorted myself out. Now I’m here as a volunteer rather than a guest, and it’s amazing to speak with the other volunteers who knew me in the past and for them to see how well I’ve done. I remember a couple of Christmases ago one of them said they could see in my eyes there was still hope and desire there. I thought my life was all over, but when they said that to me I felt a little self-belief come back.'

Read Preston's story now

'Christmas is so much nicer when you’re with someone. We can have Christmas dinner together and get some sleep in the warm. This year we’re spending at Crisis, and then we’re planning to move onto somewhere outside London where we’re not known at all. I’m an experienced bricklayer so as soon as we’re safe somewhere I want to get back to work and start a normal life again together.'

Read Sandra & Darren's story now

'Christmas brings out the best and the worst in people. People can be very happy and generous, but they can also be very nasty and aggressive. Often they see other people being generous and that makes them switch. They’re usually drunk and then they started abusing you, calling you a crack head, a scammer, go back to your house and get in your Ferrari. I’d never had to defend myself until recently but I had four fights in one week just with drunk members of the public. There are definitely more nice people than nasty though. People bring wrapped presents and take the time to talk to you more at this time of year. When people get to know you they become much more compassionate. Maybe for every ten nice people you only get one nasty one. You just remember the nasty ones more sometimes which is sad.'

Read Pete & Dexter's story now

'When I started speaking with Darren I realised that even though our lives have gone down different paths we were really similar people. We’re only seven months apart in age. We’ve got the same humour and we like the same things. It’s just very uncanny. When I got divorced I had one night when I slept in my car, and I know it doesn’t equate to this, but I can try to relate. You can’t help but think, ‘There but for the grace of God go I’.'

Read Darren & Colin's story now

'Christmas can be a really hard time of the year. It’s freezing cold and some people think you’re here for the fun of it. When my nan was alive she had a lovely old Victorian house in London and we’d all have a nice dinner then sit together round the TV and the fireplace. She was like a mum to me but she died of bone cancer and we lost the house to pay for her care. After that I went down a slippery slope. My girlfriend left me, I lost my job and I ended up here. I used to get upset about it a lot but you get to a point where you just want to forget everything.'

Read Wesley's story now

'I was fostered when I was six. I remember a lot of it. I’ve tried to forget, but I can’t. One day my mum’s boyfriend shook my baby sister so hard that she hit her head on the corner of a street sign and died. My mum left Manchester after that to move to Plymouth with a new boyfriend, but when we got here social services deemed her unfit to look after us and my two sisters, my brother, and myself were taken into care. I was separated from the others and spent a year with people who bullied me all the time and used me like a house slave. They would just sit down, watch TV and make me do all the housework. Their son used to beat me up as well. He was quite a lot older and would do it while we were out of the house and then blame it on other people.'

Read Reece's story now

'I was only on Spice for a couple of years. I never touched anything before then. I was doing really well. I was earning really good money as a chef. I did my NVQ level three and I was working at quite a famous restaurant as part of my second year apprenticeship but it became really stressful. I would start at six in the morning and not finish until 1am, six or seven days a week. It was really hard work and I just started hanging out with the wrong couple to get through it. I got addicted very quickly. I couldn’t do my work properly and lost my job, and then I ended up in jail for burglary to fund the habit.'

Read Jimmy's story now

'My mum was a prostitute and both my parents were heroin users. My mum had me when she was sixteen and then she had three more children by the time she was 23. I think it got a bit much for them both in the end because they ended up abandoning all four of us. One day my dad came home, took the money that was meant for the babysitter, beat up my mum, sent her back to work on the street, and then went out to buy more heroin. Neither of them ever came back. I was seven at the time, my two sisters were 3 and 5, and my brother was just eight-months old. We were alone for two months before anyone found us. After that, we were all taken into care.'

Read Tracey's story now

'I first started long distance walking after my wife Sarah died in a car crash. We’d been together since we were at school, nearly twenty years. I didn’t want to know anyone or anything after that. I stopped working and was living in my tent. Walking helped me deal with the pain. I used to walk for miles before realising how far I’d gone and then I’d have to get a bus back again. I would walk from one hill to another and just keeping going to see what was next. I found it so therapeutic. After a while I started doing sponsored walks for charity too. From the Outer Hebrides to Penzance, I don't think there's a part of the UK I haven't walked to now. I’ve done walks for the RNLI, St John’s Ambulance and Guide Dogs for the Blind, but the NSPCC was the biggest one I’d done until recently. That was 1200 miles from Dusseldorf back to the UK, but I always felt like I could go further.'

Read Alan's story now

'Occasionally we would manage to rent a private room but the last place we stayed in was so depressing and dangerous I had to get out. We paid £90 a week each but we had no hot water and no heating. It would rain indoors and there was black mould everywhere. It was only a four-bedroom house but the landlord was renting it out to as many as thirteen other people. He did give us a contract but I don’t think he had any idea of his obligations as a professional landlord. He was just scamming people really. I never saw the council check the safety of the property ever. I’ve since discovered that the onus was on me as a tenant to report him to the police, a bit like in a domestic violence case, but he was very aggressive and I knew he wouldn’t have stood for that. I was in a house full of quite hostile men and he’d already started on me a few times. Being in that environment made my depression and drug-use so much worse. I was scared to leave but I needed to get clean, and rehab was also a way of not getting my head kicked in by my landlord for grassing him up to the council.'

Read Alana's story now

'I was a BBC cameraman for over thirty years. I started off as an electrician before my cousin, Errol Brown, the singer with Hot Chocolate suggested I should learn how to do lighting by going on tour with them as a lighting technician. After that I went to America and worked at Universal Studios for a while before getting a job for the BBC as a lighting gaffer. From there I went onto being a technical operator for news and current affairs learning everything from remote cameras to sound engineering. I did film work for Sky, London Weekend Television and various other production companies. I even worked at Pinewood studios for a while. Just before I retired though I separated from my wife and then my brother died, and I fell into a depression. It was a situation that I just wasn’t used to. I didn’t know how to handle it, and so after all that, having three houses, plenty of money and a grand career I ended up on the streets for a couple of weeks. I’m living proof that it can happen to anyone but I managed to drag myself out of it.'

Read Brian's story now

Tom

'I can’t blame everything on my parents but I know my upbringing had something to do with my drinking. Three of my brothers have grown up to have the same problem. My twin brother has always been on and off the streets. Drink changes people. It wrecks relationships. I lost my marriage, my job and my children but I’m trying to make amends now. I’m off the street. I’m getting treatment and in a hostel. This year will be my first Christmas inside for a long time. It’s not like family but I’m looking forward to it.'

Read Tom's story now

'I was living in Europe working in the music industry for fifteen years but I decided to train properly in music production so I went back to university at the age of 40 to get a degree. I completed the first year ok but then I had a stroke and couldn’t keep up. I’d left school at fifteen so I was finding it difficult anyway but after I became ill it became too hard and I had to drop out. One day everything was looking positive then it all went wrong. I used to be a fit strong man and now I struggle walking for fifteen minutes.'

Read Tony's story now

Lee

'My mum was my rock and my soul mate. I always turned to her when I had problems. She always knew what to say and how to make me feel better. My parents split a longtime ago and my dad is more into gambling than his own family. My mum was the only one I was really close to. She didn’t tell me for two years after she found out she had cancer because she didn’t want to worry me. It took another two years before she died. They let her home for Christmas because they said she wouldn’t make it past then but she did. Shortly after that she went back into hospital and passed away.'

Read Lee's story now

'I like the fact that people can tell I’m a bit more bright eyed and bushy tailed that many people on the street. I feel sorry for other people out here because I know how hard it is to have that habit and still try and make plans for the future. I’m blessed that I haven’t got that hold of me anymore. So if I make more money than I need for me and Tank to eat then I’ll give what’s left to those who need it more because I understand the necessity of it for them. It’s not always a choice. It’s just not as simple as that. It’s like medication. When it gets hold of you, you can’t function without it. It’s horrible.'

Read Dave's story now

Jo

'I came to England from Poland nine years ago after my mother died. First I went to Great Yarmouth and was selling fish and chips, but the man gave me no contract and paid me just £3 per hour so I left and came to London.'

Read Jo's story now

'I always thought homelessness was just rough sleeping. I’m lucky that I didn’t have to sleep on the streets, but when I asked a homeless charity for help they told me that it’s people in unsuitable and temporary accommodation too. I didn’t know there was any help out there when I was in that situation. I had no idea I was entitled to any benefits or support. I thought it was just the way things were.'

Read Codi's story now

'My mum was a single mother and she was very strict. She never let me go out and dictated everything I did. Even the clothes I wore. I was never allowed to go to youth clubs or parties. I was an only child but I was never allowed a social life. I did everything she told me. I left home when I was twenty completely unprepared for the adult world. I didn’t really know what was acceptable and what wasn’t for younger people.'

Read Ann's story now

'The main problem is getting into shelters with a dog. There is one hostel that allows dogs but only two at a time, and whenever I’ve gone it’s always full. Charlie’s always been like a rock for me. It’s lonely out here on your own and having Charlie makes a real difference. He brings a smile to my face. He doesn’t judge me. I couldn’t ever bring myself to let him go.'

Read Paul & Charlie's story now

'I’ve been on the street for three weeks because the Job Centre sanctioned me for not turning up to a meeting I didn’t know about. I’d been living in a hostel for five months but my benefits weren't enough to pay the rent so I was already in debt. When the money stopped they just kicked me out.'

Read Dana's story now

'One day I just thought - enough. I was spending money just to cover up my thoughts, so I went to my doctor and told him I was afraid I was becoming an alcoholic. I was glad for that support. Sometimes if you help someone before they go downhill, like that young man I helped in the school, you can turn them around before it gets any worse. It’s never too late. I’ve not had a drink for nearly seven years now.'

Read Leroy's story now

'Eventually I registered as homeless with four councils in the Liverpool area. All in places that I had connections with, but there was only one council that would support me. All the others said that as a single homeless person I couldn’t be helped. They said you’ve got to stay in a hostel or live on the streets, but all the hostels were full. I couldn’t believe that I was in my own country and I couldn’t get anywhere to live. It’s got worse now. The rents are higher and the wages lower, so it’s no wonder that people are on the streets. I don’t think a lot of people know that and they should.'

Read Andy's story now

'I started getting depression after my daughter was born. I didn’t have much family around me and I felt isolated all the time. The stress became too much and I just couldn’t cope. Health workers came and gave me some support but none of my family really helped or understood. I couldn’t look after her properly, and I began to take everything out on my partner too.'

Read Sarah's story now

'I’m getting a bit old now and my teeth are falling out. I was sleeping in my tent one night and I put my fake tooth outside in a jar. Then I saw a magpie swoop down and steal it. It cost £150 that tooth. I saw it again the next day looking sheepish in a tree. I never did get it back.'

Read Rob's story now

'I’m generally very optimistic, but there are a lot of people who have lost hope. Society treats you differently when you’re homeless. Some people can see beyond that, but even they still need support. Some people can’t though, especially people who have been street homeless for a long time. The negative parts of their experience make such a strong impression on their life they can’t move on without help. Most people just need a house first, and then the other things can be worked out afterwards.'

Read Gerald's story now

'We all get lost sometimes, we all get confused, and that leaves us vulnerable. If there was a way that people could get help before they get stuck as homeless that would help. When I became homeless I could easily have gone down the wrong path of crime or addiction, but the sensible side of me always said that there was a better way of doing this.'

Read Ali's story now

"When I told the job centre they said that it was classed as voluntarily leaving my job, which meant that when I applied for the universal credit they sanctioned me for a whole year as punishment. They know my situation. I don't have mental issues, I don’t have any children, so as far as they’re concerned I can fend for myself."

Read Nathan's story now

"We got talking online, and then arranged to meet in Oxford where she lived. We sat in a café and talked for a long time. We held hands, and we realized that we were indeed father and daughter. She was 34 years old, and she told me that she’d been looking for me for years. I had no idea."

Read John's story now

'I’m going to train as a social worker because I want to work with young people that have been through what I’ve been through. I feel as someone that has been through it all l I could make an impact on these young people and show them that they’re not alone and someone out there does care.'

Read Abi's story now

'I was married for 14 years. 2 kids. Then my wife woke up one morning and said she no longer loved me. I tried to fight and beg. I asked if she wanted to go to counselling but in the end I had to admit defeat.'

Read Alex's story now

'If someone had told me that later on in life I would be homeless I would have sworn blind - never. You can never expect it. It just happens. I came home to London from my mother’s funeral in Barbados in 2000. It took me about six months to get back into work, but within 9 months of working I couldn’t afford to live on my salary. It felt like everything had skyrocketed over-night. The house prices and renting had gone up so much that I couldn’t afford to pay rent and keep myself clothed and fed at the same time. I started staying at my sister’s house but that wasn’t convenient at all because they shared together already. I wanted my own place but I found it really hard to raise my deposit and I was in a real rut, there was no way out. People can only help you for so long. You overstay your welcome. Your sofa surfing days are over. I just buckled down and realised the reality of it. I couldn’t believe it. I was young, my life was flourishing. And out of the blue, I’m homeless.'

Read Saville's story now

"There’s a myriad of different reasons for people being homeless but no one stops to ask. Everyone just automatically thinks, ‘They’re a junky, they’re an alco.’ I met so many people on the street that didn’t have a drink problem, didn’t have a drug problem. They were homeless through their circumstance but not everyone stops to think about that."

Read Stephen's story now

'I want to help and influence people through what I’ve done, what I’ve had to suffer with in my life, the journeys I’ve been on, and I’m sure loads of people out there have been on those journeys, and they just want a bit of confirmation that they’re not alone and things will get better.'

Read Hazel's story now

'I always loved music since I was really young. I started writing lyrics when I was thirteen years old, I’m twenty six now. I’ve been pushing it a lot this year. I’ve been going to more open mic events. Performing at bars and stuff like that, and pushing my music out and going to the studio.'

Read Gammakid's story now

"I’ve been photographing reflections on water. You don’t know where reality starts and finishes if the reflection is that clear. Not until the water’s disturbed. And I think that’s like life as well. When you’re on drugs you’re not aware of where reality is, and it’s hard to differentiate between the two."

Read Gabriella's story now

'Everybody in the group has such a different experience that it really challenged me. It’s changed my perception of what homelessness is. It’s not just rough sleeping. It’s ordinary people who’ve fallen into extraordinary circumstances.'

Read Daniel's story now

"There wasn’t one big thing that was the moment I decided to drop out. It was just a steady slide downhill. At the end of my second year going into my third I just didn’t go back. I just knew I couldn’t do it anymore."

Read Emma's story now

"My son has a serious medical condition. He’s been in hospital several times and just recently it was for six months straight. I had to stay with him every day. I was living in Luton in private accommodation and I was also on housing benefit, but that didn’t cover the shortfall in the rent, so I got into arrears and I was told I was going to be evicted."

Read Florence's story now