I ran away from home when I was 16 because I was arguing so much with my mum and I felt really unwanted. It was late at night and I had no money and nowhere to go. When I rang social services they told me the office was shut and to call back when it was open. I was frightened and didn’t want to sleep on the streets. I was lucky that a friend let me stay with them for a few days. They put me in touch with The Children’s Society, who helped me find a place to stay.
I’m also lucky because I was 16 and old enough to access a homeless hostel. But for the 100,000 children aged under 16 who run away from home and local authority care in this country, this is not an option. There are only three runaways refuges with a total of just 10 beds – it just doesn’t add up. These vulnerable and scared children end up sleeping on the streets and often get hurt.
In March, I joined The Children’s Society, Paul Burstow MP and representatives from the Metropolitan Police on a fact finding trip to Chicago to see how a national network of refuges helps young runaways. On my trip I visited a shelter for runaway and homeless young people and met some young residents. While looking around, it dawned on me that this one building had more beds than we have in the whole of the United Kingdom. It makes me so angry that the Government isn’t doing more to help these children NOW.
I am so proud to be a part of The Children’s Society’s Safe & Sound campaign. I would like to thank The Children’s Society as a whole for being so supportive and for giving me this opportunity. It has been such a life changing experience and it means so much.
Carl Hillier, a former young runaway from Weymouth in Dorset, is campaigning for the government to set up a network of children’s refuges for runaways in the UK as part of The Children’s Society’s Safe and Sound campaign.