Charlie first became homeless at 16 years old when the relationship with his mum deteriorated. With nowhere to go, Charlie stayed in late night cafes and a bus station for safety, until he found Nightstop. 

“The relationship with my Mum deteriorated when she lost my baby sister – I know it really affected her, but things went from bad to worse between us. She became difficult to live with. She was physically and emotionally abusive towards me and I was kicked out of home several times at 16 with nowhere to go. Looking back, I feel really hurt by the way she treated me, as I didn’t do anything bad to make her act this way, they just wanted their own space, and were grieving. But I was upset by the loss of my sister too, and really, I just wanted to be with my Mum even when she was being unkind to me, it was still home, and better than being on the streets. But she didn’t want me there, and to be honest, I wasn’t really safe there anyway.

“The times she kicked me out I found myself on the street. I couldn’t afford a hotel, so I ended up staying in a late-night café as long as it was open, I also slept at the bus station, and to stay safe I tried to stay in places which were quite lively. I tried to find a safe place to stay when I could, like with friends when I wasn’t too embarrassed and when the college realised something was going on, they would sometimes be able to find me somewhere, but this wasn’t always the case and I didn’t always feel comfortable speaking to them about my situation. Obviously on a weekend and in Newcastle city centre, the bus stop wasn’t filled with the best people. But it was the only place that had cameras, so if anything happened at least there was CCTV to record it. I was always on high alert, and never got any sleep.

“I felt so degraded, and looked untidy, so I was quite embarrassed about my situation. I was also really worried I’d see people I work with or people I studied with, because they all live in the city.

Charlie was placed with volunteer hosts in the community. 

“I found out about Nightstop after doing a Google search, I wanted to know if there was any support for me available. I reached out to them and they sorted me out the same day. I ended up using the service for a couple of weeks until social services found me somewhere else to stay more permanently, which meant that I could keep studying and working part-time in a restaurant.

“I have a lot to thank Nightstop for, and the people who volunteer as hosts. I was so nervous to use the service at first and didn’t really know what to expect.  I was very shocked when I stayed in one of the volunteers homes the first time.

I thought it was going to be really awkward because I was a 16-year-old lad, staying with absolute strangers. I had so many thoughts going around in my head, like What do you say? What are they going to think of you? Are they comfortable with you being there? Am I comfortable being there?

“But the couple I stayed with were so normal, welcoming and friendly. I was shown my room, invited to have dinner with them and that was that – no expectations and nothing for me to worry about for once. It meant the world to me – I felt safe and relaxed, and I was able to sleep properly for the first time in ages. If I hadn’t gone through Nightstop, I don’t think I would have got the help I had from social services either.

“The lady I stayed with was a doctor and her husband was a teacher, so I realised they were just great people with kind hearts. Even after coming back from work, the woman was up and checking my bus route to help me find my way to and from college, I didn’t ask her too, she just did it, I thought that was very sweet of her.

“It’s quite a scary thought for me to think what I would have done without Nightstop – honestly, I don’t think it would have ended well. I was in such a dark place. Thank goodness I was able to get the support I needed though.

“Now I’m 18 and have my own place, I also work full-time and have even had a holiday so things have really turned around. I’m very excited about the future too. I studied performing arts because I’ve always been interested in acting. It started as a hobby and a way to make friends when I moved up North. Acting also felt like a great way to become a different person and forget about things. That’s why I fell in love with it. But when the pandemic hit, it affected my studies and mental health, so I didn’t get the grades I was hoping for. However, l always keep an eye out for auditions and my ultimate goal is to start a theatre company. My whole experience changed my goals and now I want to work in theatre around social change and social issues. I think the arts can be a powerful way of showing social issues which can lead to greater public understanding of people who’ve been in my situation.

“At the moment, I’m working in the charity sector full-time. It’s great to be in the sector that helped me at my lowest point, and everything I’ve been through has definitely helped me with my job. It’s also taught me that you never know what anyone is going through just by looking at them, so it’s always best to be kind, never judge anyone and help others when we can.”

*The story is told in Charlie’s own words. An actor was used in the photography and film, and names have been changed to protect their privacy. 

Hear from Charlie in his own words: