WATCH: How having a home does not solve homelessness in England

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The idea of youth homelessness can be difficult for some people to understand.

However for thousands of young adults across England like Kizzy Kashmen, the experience of homelessness is not uncommon.

When I met Kizzy I was greeted by a young woman who on the surface was outgoing with a sense of humour that would have most people in stitches.

As Kizzy began to tell me about her life, I began to also see a woman who has gained a strong character when many would have crumbled.

According to the charity Homeless Link and their 2018 Young & Homeless report, approximately half of the people accessing homelessness services in England are young adults.

The report states that certain factors can impede a young person’s transition into adulthood and independence.

One of these factors, which Kizzy can relate to, is being a care leaver.

Kizzy, originally from Salford, Greater Manchester, said: “I was four-years-old when I first went into care.

“My mother suffered from clinical depression and struggled to take care of me, and my father was not present in my life, although his parents did try to help my mum as best they could.”

As a child Kizzy moved from home to home, dealing at times with physical abuse and racism.

However, when Kizzy was nine-years-old, she was finally gifted a stable home with her foster mother.

She would stay there until the age of 21, when their relationship changed in a way she never expected.

Kizzy said: “I remember it was New Year’s Day and she sat me down and told me she no longer wanted me in her home.

“I had a feeling she wanted rid of me, in the end I think it came down to money as she was no longer being paid to take care of me, and it felt like I was no longer of use to her.”

Kizzy’s world was once again was turned upside down.

After a friend took her to Salford Housing Options Point, Kizzy was declared homeless and given a place in a nearby shelter.

The Young and Homeless report states that young people who have experiences of the care system and are from black and minority ethnic backgrounds face higher risks of homelessness.

These categories meant that Kizzy was given emergency accommodation immediately.

Upon arrival to the hostel, Kizzy began to realise how her life was no longer what she once knew.

The 24-year-old said: “I didn’t sleep during my first night in the hostel, I sat in a chair fully clothed all night, it was at this point that I felt totally alone.”

Kizzy described the room as being littered with broken glass, cans of beer and needles as the beds and walls were bloodied.

She said: “They clearly had such a quick turnaround that nobody had been able to clean the room, and although when I returned that night the room was clean, I couldn’t forget what I had seen.”

When her time in emergency accommodation ran out, Kizzy found herself facing the streets.

She explained: “In order to progress to the next stage of getting a home I needed an adult guarantor, somebody who was not a family member, to vouch for me.”

Unfortunately Kizzy could not find an appropriate adult in time and faced sleeping on the streets.

She said: “Luckily, my uncle at the last minute was able to offer me somewhere to sleep at his house, I was so grateful.

“If it was not for him I really do not know what would have happened to me.”

In May 2016, four months after being declared homeless, Kizzy found a guarantor and moved into a council flat.

She has just celebrated her two year anniversary in her home.

However the stigma that is attached to being homeless still affects her.

She admitted: “My main struggle is finding work.

“When I explain my story it’s like I become a bad smell, employers look at me as if to say how did you become homeless, how did you let that happen to yourself.”

Her dream is to gain control on her life, rather than relying on Universal Credit, a payment from the government to help with living costs when you are out of work or on a low income.

Kizzy said: “Being unemployed, although there is some help from the government, does mean that I might fall behind on my rent, and it leaves me waking up every morning in a constant state of worry.”

Kizzy explains how having a roof over your head does not end all of the problems that come with homelessness.

She said: “Not only do I have to worry about basic things like bills and not having the money to decorate my flat and make it more of a home, but it is the mental turmoil that my experience has left me in that I struggle with.”

Kizzy and her mother.

Kizzy’s family and friends do not live close by and they struggle to make the journey over to see her.

She said: “I feel like I live at the end of the Earth, and although I am grateful for having a home all it has given me is loneliness.

“Living alone, only having yourself to speak to for 24-hours of the day gets intense.”

She also openly admitted that at times she has felt suicidal, and deals with intense depression and anxiety.

Despite all of this, Kizzy still remains as optimistic as she possibly can.

Whilst sharing her story has not been easy, Kizzy hopes that it will help other young adults and that the government will do more.

She said: “I really hope funding is increased in the services that surround homelessness, especially when it comes to helping people with their mental health.”

For Kizzy it feels like there is no light at the end of the tunnel yet.

However, her bravery and witty personality proves that despite all she has lost, the experience will not strip her of being a strong, intelligent and very admirable young woman.

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