“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.

Luckily I was given to much nicer foster parents after that and they’ve since become my legal guardians, but three years ago my foster mum got sick with cancer and the doctors don’t think she’ll make it past Christmas now. I’ve had lots of people in my past die who were close to me and now I find it hard to deal with. When I was sixteen I left my foster family and moved in with my girlfriend. We were together for three years and it was great for a long time, but then she became pregnant and the baby was stillborn. Three years is a long time for most teenagers but after that we felt broken. I was living with her family at the time and they were really nice to me, but my girlfriend and I found it impossible to speak to each other. She blamed herself, and I couldn’t cope without drinking too much. We stayed friends for while, but in the end we separated.

I went back to stay with my foster dad after that, but only for a few days. I wanted to stay at home with him while my foster mum was in hospital, but he’s taken her illness really hard and said he couldn’t handle any more people in the house. He was quite anxious and depressed before, but it’s got a lot worse since she got cancer.

After that I had no choice but to go to the council. They put me in a temporary B&B for a few weeks and then I was moved into what’s called ‘SafeSleep’ at the Salvation Army. You don’t get your own room. It’s just a mattress and a quilt on the floor in the games room. It’s not great but it’s better than being on the street until a proper room becomes available.

I used to have supervised contact with my real mum, but she’s been messing us around for years. She makes promises all the time but never keeps them. My sister went back to live with her for while but another new boyfriend starting abusing her and my mum wouldn’t believe it. I ended up going to where they lived and got into a fight with him. I was put in a cell for the night, and I haven’t spoken to her since.    

I think all these things have just left me finding it difficult to be around anyone I think will leave in anyway. It’s not just death. It’s loss. I never met my father. My mum has spoken about him but she never had anything nice to say.

I’ve been looking for a job for about six weeks now though. I finished a carpentry qualification when I was seventeen. I was always interested in craft and making things and I immediately loved it. It wasn’t long after I finished the course though that our baby died. I’m applying for joinery apprenticeships at the moment and if I become a resident in the hostel I could get help from an employment coach. My foster parents know where I am, but they’ve got so much going on anyway. My ex-girlfriend’s family contact me occasionally to ask if I’m ok and see if there’s anything I need, but for now it’s just me and my friends I’ve met in the hostel."

Reece, Plymouth.

By sharing stories we can change attitudes and build a movement for permanent, positive change. Stand against homelessness and help us end it for good.