Imagine not knowing from one day to the next where you will be sleeping that night.
Perhaps a friend’s sofa, perhaps just wandering around the streets under the cover of darkness until the sun comes up.
Now imagine that this is happening and you are just 16 years old, a child, with no family or friend network to support you.
That is the stark reality for many young people who find themselves, through no fault of their own, without a roof over their heads.
It can be due to family breakdowns, people who are care leavers or fleeing from an abusive relationship.
In fact there is no particular type of homeless person.
Quite often it will be the first time they have ever really felt supported or given the opportunity to thriveAnni Bury
But there is a charity which offers not just a roof over their heads when they are desperate, but equips them with the life skills needed to eventually live independently.
Step by Step supports 16 to 25-year-olds across Havant, Fareham and Gosport.
The service is split between homeless single 16 to 21-year-olds and homeless families where parents are aged between 16 and 25, with children under school age.
More than 50 young people are supported in two stages – high and medium support.
There are decreasing levels of supervision but they remain fully supported throughout their stay with Step by Step.
The aim is for the young people to be able to eventually move on and live completely independently.
Anni Bury, the regional Foyer manager for Step by Step, says: ‘A large factor is gaining young people’s trust.
‘They will have been through all sorts of difficult situations.
‘Quite often it will be the first time they have ever really felt supported or given the opportunity to thrive.’
And without the help and support of charities such as Step by Step there would be little hope of the young people, many homeless before they are even old enough to vote, of finding a permanent settled home.
The staff at Step by Step believe that simply providing accommodation isn’t enough – young people need to learn vocational and life skills to help them achieve independence and to enable them to express themselves and find fulfilment.
As well as practical skills in cooking, healthy eating, sexual health, cleaning, money management, employment and education, there are other programmes designed to help the young people fulfil their potential.
The charity was recently awarded funding to link with isolated older people in the area.
It will be running afternoon teas and garden make overs – teaching them valuable AQA-accredited cooking and horticultural skills.
The aim is to link the two age groups so they can learn from each other. Anni adds: ‘We provide a friendly environment where young people can enjoy a supportive, secure and stable living environment.
‘Each young person has a Step worker – skills, talent, empowerment and progress –and we work with people to identify their aspirations and development needs to help them reach their potential.’
Rhian Carrington was just 18 when she became homeless after being asked to leave the family home in Emsworth.
The 19-year-old went on to spend almost a year not knowing where she would be sleeping for the next few weeks and relying on friends and extended family to let her stay on their sofas.
It was a lifestyle which left her extremely depressed, lonely and isolated.
But fortunately she was put in touch with Step by Step and was housed in Krystal House, Leigh Park, in supported accommodation.
There she was able to find help and support until she reached a point where she could live more independently at nearby Brent House.
Rhian says: ‘I was kicked out when I was 18. I sofa-surfed for 10 months and it was hard. It was very depressing.
‘I got a place at Krystal House and they helped me sort myself out and become the person I am today.
‘They have supported me with things I can’t normally deal with.
‘I struggle with things like filling out forms.
‘They have helped me with job applications and I had three interviews in one day last week.
‘There is always someone to talk to.’
Rhian is brutally honest about where she would be if it were not for the help and support of Step by Step.
She says: ‘I would be in hospital if it was not for everyone here.
‘I could not going on living the way I was, sofa-surfing.
‘It was a really hard way to live.
‘I’m looking for a part-time job now and I’ve accessed all the services that are available here.’
When Adele Tebbutt first arrived at Krystal House she was so painfully shy she found it difficult to talk to people or be in a group.
As well as giving the 18-year-old supported accommodation staff at Step by Step knew it was vital to bring Adele out of herself and build up her confidence enough to be able to speak to other people.
‘Now I just don’t stop talking’ she says.
‘I was really, really shy but Step by Step has helped me learn how to be relaxed in with groups by team-building days out.
‘When I first came here I didn’t how know to cook anything at all.
‘But with the help of my support workers I have learned how to cook.
‘The other day I made a roast dinner all on my own which I was really pleased with.
‘There are still times when I struggle with things.
‘I find it hard to talk on the telephone for things like benefits.
‘So they take me through how to do that sort of thing.
‘And I need a lot of reminders to do things – which they give me.’
Adele is gaining valuable work experience by volunteering in a charity shop.
She says: ‘I like structure in my life so I like volunteering at the charity shop.
‘I like building friendships with customers.
‘The people at Step by Step are good people.
‘And I can see myself living independently in the future.’