‘All it takes is one person to care’: How a homeless Bury teenager turned his life around

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20-year-old Kyson from Bury shares his experience with homelessness and advice for other young people dealing with the knock-on effects of the cost of living crisis.

It’s normally an adult’s job to worry about money and making ends meet, but a new study suggests that the cost of living crisis is also taking its toll on young people in the North West too. One young person who understands this more than most is 20-year-old Kyson, from Bury.

In May 2021, in the middle of the pandemic, the then-teenager became homeless after being kicked out of his abusive household. With help from Barnardo’s, he was able to find accommodation and the support he needed.

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Research conducted by children’s charity Barnardo’s and the Co-op as part of their Youth Opportunities Tracker found that ‘having enough money to cover basic needs was the most common aspiration among the 10-25-year-olds surveyed – above ‘achieving their dream job’ and ‘buying a house.’

What’s more, mental health and wellbeing are also growing concerns for young people, with 39% of respondents claiming to have suffered with mental health issues over the last six months and 41% worrying about how their parents and carers are coping with the cost of living.

Navigating the system

Kyson was just 16 years old when he was finally able to leave his abusive home. He had sought advice from a college counsellor, who helped him research the different avenues of support and get in touch with Barnardo’s.

He said: “It was definitely difficult, but really relieving. I was trying to escape that household for so long but I couldn’t. I was trapped. The first day I was able to move out, I cried like 12 times. It was amazing, I was finally free and away from everything.

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But this was just the first step for Kyson, who was now “financially, physically and emotionally estranged” from his family. One of the biggest challenges Kyson faced after moving out was money and dealing with the Universal Credit system.

He said: “Without Barnardo’s, I would have had to learn the entire system without any resources or support. And you quickly realise that you can only really learn it from somebody who has been through the system or is helping other people through the system. There is no easy way to navigate it, especially for someone who doesn’t know where to start or is in a very difficult situation.”

Up until October 2021, Kyson was working for the NHS alongside full-time education. However, in order to receive the maximum amount he was entitled to through Universal Credit, he had to quit his job. He described this process as “really exhausting,” but was thankful to the charity that helped him through it.

Kyson turned his life around after being made homeless during the pandemic.Kyson turned his life around after being made homeless during the pandemic.
Kyson turned his life around after being made homeless during the pandemic.

He said: “Without the Barnardo’s service I would not have got what I was entitled to. There’s definitely a lack of support around making it easier for people to navigate and understand, even understanding the bare minimum.

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“I’m lucky in that I have the motivation to work, to continue with college studies. It’s so easy for people in my situation to be trapped because you’re penalised for working, you have to try and budget what little you do have with the cost of living crisis. There have been times where I would have been financially ruined because of different circumstances.

The future is now much brighter for Kyson, who will be starting university in September, studying veterinary nursing. Having already volunteered as the coordinator for the Blue Cross pet food bank in Manchester, he is now looking forward to embarking on his dream career.

“I’m about to escape the system. I’ll still be a student, but I will be on an equal playing field to everybody else, for the first time in my life. There will be a lot of students living on a student salary, I’ll be able to get a lot more support that students get, and all the other opportunities that are available to me through that.”

“All it takes is one person”

Emotional support and wellbeing support is something that Kyson also feels is an issue among young people like him. He says he is fortunate and thankful that his boyfriend and his family have helped him get through these tough times, and his therapy cat Susie is also a huge source of comfort for him, but not everyone is that lucky.

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He said: “I have to be six people at any given time. I have to be my own parents, I have to be my own carer. During all that, you also have people who need help as well, like friends. Mental health has gone down through the pandemic, the lack of support is absolutely horrible for people in my circumstances.”

As a result, he believes in paying that kindness forward. He added: “It’s about finding a balance between helping as much as you can and also trying to help yourself. You find that people are nice in these situations, so the more you help around, the more you get help because we’re all in this together.”

His number one piece of advice for young people in similar situations is to “always keep asking for help.”

He said: “It only takes one person. Keep asking, explain your circumstances, explain your situation. It only takes that one person to take that extra time to care for you to get the ball rolling. And once the ball does get rolling, you find that a lot more other services will get involved. It takes one person to pick it up and give you a chance. If you keep asking for stuff that you need you will eventually, hopefully, get it.”

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“There’s a lot of stigma around people in my situation. At the end of the day, we’re all just victims of circumstance. The barriers that we face do create a lot of issues that we see in people failing and it’s a really downward spiral.

“I am thankful, I am lucky to get out, but there’s still so many other people that are in our circumstances. That’s why Barnardo’s and the Coop project is really going to help young people to get out of the situation. All it takes is one person to help people get out of the system.”

What do Barnardo’s and Co-op say?

Shirine Khoury-Haq, CEO of Co-op Group says: “The cost of living has had a seismic impact on young people, with many having to prioritise immediate needs like where their next meal will come from, over long-term goals and aspirations.

“That’s why we’ve partnered with Barnardo’s to raise £5m to support 750,000 young people in communities across the UK, working with young people to identify the problems they face and co-create solutions. But the solutions go beyond just us. We are calling on Government and businesses to put young people’s valuable perspectives right at the heart of policy making and business decisions. Only in doing that, can we create a fairer future for young people.”

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Lynn Perry MBE, CEO of Barnardo’s says: “We know from our frontline work supporting children and families across the UK that too many are struggling to access the very basics, including food, and there’s an increasing impact on their mental wellbeing and opportunities. Worryingly, our new research with Co-op shows that young people seem to be losing hope and do not feel optimistic about their futures.

“It’s vital that we act now to make sure children and young people are safe, happy, and healthy. That’s why we’re working closely with Co-op to raise vital funds to help us support thousands more young people who need us most, as well as providing opportunities for young people to make their voices heard and drive positive change in their communities and across the country.”

  • For more information about the joint Barnardo’s and Coop initiative to support young people, including ways on how to help fundraise, head to their website.

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