A mother-of-three refused to let her son’s homeless friend live on the streets when she found out that he was sleeping in freezing conditions, in an abandoned train carriage.
During the recent snowy conditions, Natalie Hawkins, a communities and regeneration coordinator from Ely, Cardiff, was looking out of her window, pondering how awful it would be to sleep out in the cold.
Speaking to Wales Online, she said: “So my son Jack was in the house, and it was snowing outside and I was in the kitchen with my sister and I just said, ‘Imagine sleeping outside in this, it’s awful.’
“Jack said his mate was homeless and was living behind Leekes. I said, ‘What? Give him a ring and he can come here.'”
Jack’s friend Keiran had been living in a tent, before spending 10 months in an abandoned train shack which another friend had helped him renovate into a (barely) liveable space with shelter, though it had no running water, heating or electricity.
Upon hearing of Keiran’s situation, Natalie told her son to fetch the young man.
Keiran told the website how hard he had found it once he became homeless, after his mother had moved to Ireland and his brothers to Caerphilly, and the shame he felt – which at the time prevented him from telling anyone what he was going through.
“I was trying to hide the fact that I was homeless,” he said. “Only because in the past when I’ve tried to tell people to see if it would help, but it wouldn’t. I was judged by it, and I didn’t want that.
“My mother left to move to Ireland, and I didn’t heed the warning quick enough. By the time my mum left it was inevitable I’d be on the streets.
“It was only supposed to be a short amount of time, but once I was there it was just so hard to get out of it. It didn’t take me long to get so miserable that I didn’t want to do anything, I didn’t want to get up.
“But when I did get up I’d realise where I was, and I’d have to get up because I couldn’t face looking at it all. Once you’re in the situation I’m in, it’s hard to get out of. Easy to get into, hard to get out of.”
Since Hawkins took Keiran in, she has also started a successful crowdfunding page for people to help him. Substantial donations have included clothes and food, all of which has given the young man a huge boost.
“I was surprised,” he said. “The whole time I was homeless I was cautious who to tell and who to let in on the secret I was homeless. I put a lot of effort to keep it hidden, through the way I dress to how I present myself.
“But now all this support has made me feel like I’m comfortable, admitting where I’ve been and what I’ve done. There’s no shame.
“I thought it was shameful and embarrassing, but I’ve learned that there’s not.”
Levels of homelessness (both visible and invisible) remain disparagingly high in the UK. Speaking to LADBible, a Crisis spokesperson says: “Crisis research shows that nearly 160,000 households are homeless in the UK, including nearly 9,000 people sleeping rough and 9,000 people sleeping in tents, cars, trains and buses.
“If trends continue, homelessness is expected to rise 50 percent in the next decade. Rises continue due to a toxic mixture of a lack of affordable housing, cuts to benefits and the spiralling costs of renting.
“The Government has taken recent steps to tackle and end different forms of homelessness, including through a rough sleeping action group in Scotland and a rough sleeping taskforce in England.
“The Government also committed £28 million ($38.7m) to pilot three Housing First schemes in the Autumn Budget, as well as £20m ($27.6m) to invest into Help to Rent schemes that help homeless people enter the private rented sector.
“But now is the time for Government to take urgent action. We have commissioned ground-breaking new evidence showing how rough sleeping can be ended once and for all by following some basic principles.
“These include getting people off the streets quickly and into accommodation and taking a ‘person-centred’ approach by tailoring support to take individuals’ needs into account (through schemes such as Housing First).”