When Danny first arrived at SLEAP, according to his own words "he did not exist". He had been sleeping rough in woodland for two years, school had not missed him and he had no documents. Despite this difficult start, Daniel has turned his life around and has turned his negative experiences into motivation to help others. He is now a Trustee for SLEAP and a huge advocate for ending youth homelessness. He won the 2021 Centrepoint Partner’s Inspiration Award.
Homeless at just 14
Daniel, 25, was first supported by SLEAP [A Centrepoint Partnering member in Lancashire], when he was a young teen and again after he lost his social housing following a motorcycle accident 4 years ago.
Remembering leaving home, he describes a moment of clarity where a sense of courage and power overtook him and urged him to pack his bag and walk away from the abuse he was experiencing.
“I shoved socks and underwear in my bag and I remember packing one t shirt because I thought I was going to go to my grandma's. She lived about thirty miles away in Leyland and I started walking, but it got late that I stayed at a bus stop the first night. The following day, I went to my grandma's but I was too scared to tell her what was going on as I was terrified of getting taken away,” he recalls.
Camping in the woods
Too afraid to tell anyone what was really going on, Daniel ended up camping out in an area of woodland between Southport and Leyland for two years in a lean to [a shelter made from branches and sticks]. He would visit his Grandma once a week for a meal and eventually she noticed that something was wrong.
“I don't know if it showed on my face, but I definitely remember feeling drained. She was very persistent and wouldn’t let me until I told her what was going on. So in the end I told her everything and she made up a bed for me and I stayed there until SLEAP took me on.”
SLEAP were able to find Daniel long-term lodgings, which provided him with stable housing until he was ready to move into his own flat.
However, In 2017, Daniel had a serious motorcycle accident which put him in hospital for a period of six months. Because he wasn’t working and keeping up with rent payments, he lost his social housing and had to approach SLEAP again for help when he was discharged from hospital. He is now living in private rented accommodation.
Advocating for others
It’s been ten years since Daniel first became homeless and he has invested a lot of his time and energy into advocating for others in vulnerable situations and changing perceptions of homelessness. He has become a trustee for SLEAP and is determined to positively change public policy in this area.
“I'd like to continue to try and get policies changed around supported accommodation for those that are working. And once I've done that, my long term life goal is to end homelessness within the UK, which I know is going to be continue going the way after I passed away, but at least get it to the point where some real progress has been made,” he enthuses.
“We get to tackle our passions, which for me means homelessness, I'm trying to make it more affordable for people living in supported accommodation to work and stay in secure housing.”
Winning a Centrepoint Award
It’s obvious to us why Daniel has won the Centrepoint Partners' Inspiration Award, but how does he feel about winning?
“It's not fully sunk in yet. I've told people like my Grandma, but it's not sunk in. It's not just about me though. There's the people who've put in the hard work around me to help me become who I am. So I’m just at a loss for words as well really.”