LET’S MAKE A CHANGE: CHALLENGING ADOLESCENT HOMELESSNESS
Mood swings, jeans that are either too baggy or too tight, the colour black, body odour and unexpected hair growth in unexpected places… You might be wondering what these things have in common? Teenagers. That’s right, we’re talking about that awkward age where everything changes, moods keep swinging and the world seems to be against you.
Personally, I can’t remember much of my teenage years (probably because it was filled with acne and the toxic scent of Lynx Africa and so, as an act of kindness towards myself, I’ve tried to forget it 🙃). However, I do remember constantly feeling awkward and being consumed with worry about what others thought about me. I didn’t really feel like I fit into any of the groups that were forming around me, and in an attempt to try, I forced myself to do what everyone else was doing just to get some sense of belonging.
However, despite all the ups and downs of teenage-hood, I guess my teenage years weren’t anything abnormal, and the vast majority of you probably experienced something very similar. The reason that we’re able to, for the most part, navigate the tricky teenage years and come out the other end as (mostly) responsible adults is that we have the opportunity to figure these crucial formative years out from a place of safety.
For many of us, there is a stable family to turn to when we make mistakes, there is access to advice when things go wrong, and there is grace to make mistakes without the world ending. Whatever your teenage years looked like, like me, the ups were often and the downs did not compromise your place in society.
But for 121,000 adolescents in the UK, this isn’t the case.
Can you imagine facing the teenage trials without any sense of a safety net to fall back on when things went wrong? And above that, can you imagine facing bigger problems like a lack of food, uncertainty about where you’ll sleep for the night, if you’ll be able to go to school and even something as simple as if you’ll have clothing to wear. Many of us do not have to consider these problems but for these 121,000 adolescents, these are everyday concerns added to what is considered a normal teenage crisis.
Homelessness is a very complex issue that looks different for everyone who experiences it. For children or young adults, it is a devastating reality that usually leads to significant issues in adulthood. It also opens the door to other serious social issues such as human trafficking, gang culture, and these young individuals are often victims of sexual exploitation - more so than adults in Northern Ireland specifically. Sometimes these issues are less visible from the outside. Challenges such as malnutrition, anxiety, learning difficulties, mental health and behavioural problems are some of the issues that go unnoticed but have a significant impact on these kids.
Sadly, these issues are just a scratch on the surface of what adolescents experiencing homelessness will go through, leaving many of them affected for a lifetime.
With our latest collection, The Colour Collection, we wanted to give people insight into the impact of childhood poverty and food insecurity, and how if left untreated, it can carry a whole host of long-term effects right throughout adulthood. This collection serves as a reminder to those of us who had a fortunate childhood, from our learning-to-walk toddler years right to our learning-to-live teenage years, that not everyone has that same luxury. By recognising this, we hope that we can encourage you to join us as we educate ourselves on this issue and seek out its solutions.
We know we can’t change the world or completely eradicate the issue of childhood poverty, but we do believe we can change one, two, three, four worlds. And in doing so, contribute, even if only a little, to make a difference to the tragic statistics.
If you find yourself in a place where you’re able to extend help of any shape or form to these vulnerable individuals, check out some of the ways you can do so below! And, if you want to know more about the issue or the way you can help, please get in touch! We’d love to hear from you ✌️
There are so many great organisations out there that support young people who might find themselves facing homelessness but you can also provide a huge means of support by opening your home to foster one of these young individuals. You may be thinking that this is way too big a step and much too hard a challenge but there are many different ways that you can support children and young people through fostering that make it easier to consider. For example, you can offer short-break care which is where you agree to take a young person for a weekend every month or in a timeframe that suits you. While this may not seem like much, this provides them with a safe space to wash clothes, enjoy a proper meal and experience a more typical, wholesome family life. A small commitment that could have a monumental impact.
There are also opportunities to foster young single mothers as a way of helping them to handle the basic tasks of motherhood without having to worry about bills, housing and other stress-impacting responsibilities they may not be capable of handling.
Check out https://www.barnardos.org.uk/what-we-do/fostering-and-adoption to find out more information about how to get involved.
Before you think that volunteering isn’t as important as a donation or a gesture like fostering, let’s get this straight: volunteering speaks volumes! Volunteering is a unique form of giving back that allows those who you are helping to see that they are worthy of your time and attention. And in a world where time is money, that’s pretty big.
Many of the children experiencing some form of poverty or homelessness are unable to enjoy the simple experiences that make childhood, well, childhood. Often these individuals will face extended periods of isolation, intense feelings of rejection, and threatening environments that prohibit them from enjoying the escapism of imagination. However, volunteering gives us the chance to change these things and it creates an important sensation of being seen, recognised and accepted. Volunteering is also a very diverse concept that can look different for everyone! What we love about it is that you can choose to volunteer in a way that suits you, your availability, your skills and your passions.
If you’re passionate or trained in education, why not volunteer to help these young people with school work? Or if you’re an artist or musician, how about offering your time to help these young individuals escape reality and indulge in their creativity and imagination! Maybe you LOVE food, you could offer to teach these individuals how to cook or you could even cook for them, providing them with a hearty, nutritious meal. There are SO many ways you can give of your time and all are guaranteed to make a difference. All it takes is the decision to act. Together, we can make an impact 😊
Here are some great organisations that provide great opportunities to get involved in the fight against youth homelessness and child poverty:
The early stages in our lives are our most impressionable years. Whether good or bad, things tend to stick. That’s why we can remember smells, tastes, textures, words and all other kinds of little details from forever ago. Among these things, can you remember a time where you were given some brand new, out the box and into your hands? Maybe a Christmas gift or birthday present, whichever it was, think about the feelings of pride, excitement and sheer joy that ran through you when you saw that thing was yours and only yours. There’s nothing quite like it is there? Unfortunately, many of these vulnerable children have never and may never experience what it’s like to receive something that is fully theirs and completely new. If you’re looking to donate something, why not think about some of the things that brought you joy as a child and then look to share this joy with someone else. Some charities even present the opportunity to gift wrap these donations, especially over the Christmas period. This is an easy way to make a lasting impression of value, worth and hope in these young lives.
Local members of parliament are in place to be a voice for the people. But that doesn’t mean they don’t need some help to hear from these people. You can play an active role in working against the issue of adolescent poverty and homelessness by finding the local MPs and sharing your concerns about the issue and providing practical solutions that would help. Once you’ve shared your thoughts over email, give them some time to respond and allow them to provide you with the advised next steps on how you can be involved in combating the issue at hand. You can also get involved with one of the many ongoing campaigns that work hard to raise funding and awareness for various initiatives and organisations that positively shape young people’s lives and provide them with the support they need to have a better future.
These are just a few of the ways you can get involved but there are so many others out there! You can also help us to support children experiencing poverty and food insecurity by supporting our latest collection, The Colour Collection. Proceeds from this collection will go towards funding the cost of specially curated food, entertainment and clothing hampers that will be given to underprivileged children supported by Feeding Birkenhead’s Number Seven charity. Every single purchase contributes to making this possible, so no matter how big or how small your order, you can rest assured that you are making a profound impact on a child’s life.
You can also learn more about the issue of child poverty in our latest blog posts and on our social media! We’re big believers that the best way to eradicate an issue is to educate ourselves on it first.
Whatever you’re able to do, we believe that together we can make a difference. And one that will last.