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Homeless teen speaks about life on the streets
PIXIE, 19, has spent months sleeping rough in Darlington. Here she speaks to Joanna Morris about how she ended up on the streets, being attacked and targeted by people for sex and her hopes for a better life in the future.
“I ENDED up homeless because of a family breakdown. I can’t go back home to my mother, she has said she doesn’t want me there," says Pixie, 19, who has chosen to sleep rough in a park rather than face life in a homeless hostel.
The teenager had moved in with her boyfriend, but the pair broke up and she has been on the streets ever since, lately taking to sleeping in Darlington's South Park.
“I have a good group of friends who sometimes let me stay with them, but I don’t want to be a burden and I can’t stay there permanently so I end up on the streets," she said.
“If it’s warm, I just walk around all night, but if it’s cold I go to the bandstand and sleep there to keep out of the rain."
Pixie says her first night sleeping rough brought home the reality of what she was doing.
“The first night I slept rough, I camped there. I’d never camped before and I thought I was going to die. It was freezing and raining and I was scared, I was completely on my own," she said, adding that she had been involved in several disturbing incidents since.
“It’s horrible. I’ve been attacked a couple of times, beaten up just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time," she said.
“When you’re walking the streets at 4am with nothing but a handbag, people think you are a prostitute and I’ve had death threats from men because I’ve refused to do what they wanted me to do.
“Sometimes I feel scared but mostly these days I feel numb. I’m just too tired to care. I keep falling asleep everywhere and I can’t remember the last time I had a full night’s sleep.
“All I want to do is be able to lock a door and get some sleep. So many people take that as a given but it isn’t, not for people like me."
Pixie says she just doesn't want to sleep rough, but feels she has little choice.
“I just want somewhere to go that is suitable. I don’t want to sleep in a park," she said.
“I don’t have any money coming in so I can’t afford my own place. I was on Job Seekers’ Allowance, but I turned down a job because they expected me to move to London and live in a house-share with people I don’t know, for a job that paid commission only.
“They took my benefits off me and now I have nothing at all until it can get sorted out."
Pixie says she has been tempted into crime in order to feed herself.
“I haven’t eaten for days and it’s a matter of time before I get arrested," she said.
“I’ve never stolen anything before, but I’ve started stealing from shops to get food. I went to the food bank at Kings Church and they gave me a free package, but it was dried pasta and packet soup and I’ve got no way of cooking that.
“It’s hard to look after myself. I often sneak into the Dolphin Centre to get a shower and stay clean. They don’t like it but what can they do?
“If it wasn’t for friends and the kindness of strangers, I don’t know how I would go on. I have a friend who will sometimes cook for me and let me have a bath at her house and strangers will sometimes do really nice things.
“Not everybody is kind, though. A lot of people judge you and sometimes it is the ones whose job it is to look after people like me that are the worst."
Pixie says she has thought about taking her own life, such is the low ebb she finds herself at.
“I would not wish this situation on anybody, but I wish people could understand what it is like to always be judged and to be scared all the time and not have any idea if you are going to even wake up the next day," she said.
“I sometimes feel that I could kill myself and people would only notice if they got blood on their clothes.
“I’ve thought about suicide and I’ve tried to do it a couple of times, but I’m too scared to die so I just have to try and stay positive.
“What has stopped me going crazy is thinking that the universe knows this has to happen to somebody and if it’s happening to me, it’s not happening to someone else.
“There have been many times when I have been ready to give up and then somebody random will give me the will to go on another day by doing something kind.
“The kindness of strangers is beautiful, the fact that people will do something kind just to be nice, like buy me a meal or give me a cigarette.
“When I’m back on my feet again, I’d love to make a bit of a difference to the world, to do a job where I can talk to people and try and help them.”
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