A Hadleigh teenager has spoken about her life after becoming homeless, living in warehouses which were used as drugs dens.
Nineteen-year-old Leanne Higgins has spoken out about the difficulties facing vulnerable young adults as part of a charity campaign to help young people live safely.
Survey results show that many 16-24-year-olds feel ill-equipped to deal with life on their own and charity Action for Children has warned the situation is far worse for the most vulnerable young adults who often lack the skills and support network to live independently.
Leanne was in a very vulnerable position.
The victim of a assault when she was 15, she was left feeling very depressed which had a dramatic impact on her school and family life.
Her relationship with her parents became so bad that she moved in with a friend’s family for a year, then, after trying unsuccessfully to live with her parents again, she began sofa surfing.
Eventually Leanne and her boyfriend were left with nowhere to go, finding a set of derelict warehouses in Hadleigh in which to sleep rough.
Leanne said: “The whole place was filthy and cold and lots of young people used the different buildings to do drugs and there was human excrement everywhere.
“For the first few nights we slept under an old curtain on a dirty sofa. There were holes in the walls and the whole place was falling down. We built a shelter of sorts around the sofa using scrap we found to keep the wind out but it didn’t work very well.
“We bought candles to make the place smell a bit better but it was very scary and uncomfortable. Foxes came in at night and I was petrified they’d attack us. I just tried to pretend they weren’t there.”
After a couple of months living at the warehouses, Leanne and her boyfriend, who are no longer together, were found accommodation at different branches of Action for Children’s West Suffolk Shared Housing service.
They are both now being supported with access to emotional support, education and employment opportunities.
Leanne added: “I wish I could’ve phoned my parents every day when I was homeless. My relationship with them is much better now and I see them a lot more.”
Yolanda Hampshire, the charity’s operational director of children’s services, said: “For many young people, moving out of the family home can be an exciting and intrepid first step to independence, with the added advantages of parents who can provide emotional, practical and financial support.
“For the young people Action for Children supports living independently at a young age is often not a choice, nor does it come with a parental safety net.”
Action for Children provides specialist services such as West Suffolk Shared Housing that help thousands of young people have a safe and loving home.
The charity is urging people to take part in its Byte Night East Anglia, part of the UK’s biggest sponsored sleep out, to help raise vital funds to support services such as West Suffolk Shared Housing.
Byte Night East Anglia takes place on October 2, at Cambridge Airport with more than 1,500 people sleeping out across the UK.