“For the first time I feel like
I’m living in a home.
I feel safe.”

No real home

Her mother had a violent partner, and from 13 to 15 she couldn’t go to school because the family was moving around to take sanctuary in refuges and hostels. She went to live with her stepfather, but this was not a safe home either. The house was often raided by police. She started smoking, hanging out with the “wrong crowd”, and got into trouble with the police herself. She felt there was nowhere to go.

A way forward

Her Family Intervention Worker suggested she moved into YMCA West London’s Supported Lodgings scheme. Young people aged 16 to 18 live in the home of an approved ‘supported lodgings host’, for up to two years. Lanre Sanni, who manages the project, says, “For many young people it works better than our traditional style supported housing, because they get greater individual attention while being part of a family. They can learn the life skills they need more quickly.”

Shannon moved into Theresa’s house. Her “host mother”, Theresa, was really welcoming. She was not used to that. She’s built “an amazing relationship” with her host mother: “She’s invested in my life”.

Shannon’s learning how she would like to live her life and the kind of environment she would like to give a family of her own, rather than the way she grew up. Theresa’s taught her about a healthy lifestyle and she’s found a passion for exercise and healthy food.

Looking forward to the future

Shannon’s 19 now. She’s volunteered in El Salvador, and works for Ealing Council as a youth work apprentice. She wants to go to university. As she missed so much schooling, she doesn’t have the qualifications she needs, but is planning to get a qualification in English and Maths and then apply for a university access course to study Human Rights and Spanish.