How to avoid homelessness
by by Brian Radcliffe
Suitable for Key Stage 4/5
To explore students’ sense of home.
Preparation and materials
- You will need a leader and three readers.
- Have available the video Doorways: Holly (5.37 minutes), at: www.truetube.co.uk/film/doorways-holly, and the means to show it during the assembly.
- Also have available the song ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ by Lynyrd Skynyrd and the means to play it at the end of the assembly (check copyright).
Leader What do you think makes a home?
Reader 1 I think home is the place where I can be myself, where I can do what I want. It’s my private space.
Reader 2 It’s also about people. It’s where my family live and I know I can always invite my friends home with me.
Reader 1 Yes, and I feel safe at home. It’s a place full of happy memories.
Reader 2 I can make a mess sometimes at home, just as long as I clean it up after.
Reader 1 To sum up: home is where my favourite things . . .
Reader 2 . . . and my favourite people . . .
Readers 1 and 2 . . . are all in the same place, together.
Readers 1 and 2 stand facing audience with big smiles on their faces.
Reader 3 rudely breaks in.
Reader 3 Just who do you think you’re kidding? Have you ever met my dad? My mum’s an embarrassment to be with. They’re always on at me about the state of my room, the way I dress, the friends I mix with. As for a private space, that’s a joke, too. I can’t leave anything around because my brother and sister will mess it up. Nothing’s safe. Home? It’s a word I don’t understand the meaning of.
Leader These are two extremes, but both may be true for some of you. On the one hand there are those who, every night, love arriving home. On the other hand, there are those of you who deliberately stay away from home until as late as possible because you fear what you may find there.
I want to introduce you now to a girl called Holly, who understands about the problems people can have living at home.
Play TrueTube Doorways: Holly video.
Leader Holly’s picture of what makes a home fairly closely mirrors the picture painted by our first two readers. She looked for a place to chill out, where she could put her feet on the sofa without being afraid she was going to offend someone. Her experience, however, was close to that of our third reader: problems with her dad, resorting to stealing and truancy, all resulting from her drug problem . . . smoking weed.
We met Holly after she’d resolved her issues, so can you think what it was that made the difference? I think it can be summed up in a single word – perspective.
First, Holly stepped back from her home. She walked out. From outside she gained a new perspective on what the alternatives were. Sofa surfing didn’t work because she was on a mattress squeezed in on someone’s floor. The foyer, a residence for homeless young people, put her in a very vulnerable position. She ended up being bullied. Finally, she moved in with her boyfriend, but that wasn’t ideal either and didn’t last. The home she left soon began to look like an option worth examining again.
Second, Holly appears to have looked at her situation from the point of view of someone else, her mother. One of the big problems originally was that no one in her family talked to each other, no one attempted to talk and work through Holly’s drug dependency. It’s only when she involved her mother and contacted the organizations Connexions and The Prince’s Trust that her different perspective came about.
Finally, when Holly met other young people who’d been seriously homeless, sleeping on the streets, yet they’d come back from that, she could see her situation was not beyond redemption. She realized that her experiences had not been nearly as bad as theirs, so, if they’d managed to turn their lives around, so could she. It made her want to live.
Time for reflection
I don’t know what kinds of experiences of home most of you have. Probably they’re a mix of good and not so good. Most young people threaten to leave home at least once in their teenage years. A few carry out that threat. If you ever feel like that, then take from Holly’s story today what she learned the hard way and, first, consider your home from a different perspective. It may be that you stay with a friend for a few days. It may be that you think about what home represents to you and the other people who have to live with you. It may be you find out about the ways others have coped with issues like those you face.
You may wish to highlight support services available in your school at this point.
Whatever you decide, remember that home doesn’t just happen – it’s created by those who live there, which includes you.
Thank you for good homes.
Thank you for those who put time and effort into creating them.
May we be sensitive to one another’s experiences.
May we be ready to support one another when home becomes difficult.
‘Sweet Home Alabama’ by Lynyrd Skynyrd