Shea Moran dedicated his life to ending youth homelessness after being thrown out of his family home at the age of 16.
The dedicated homeless support worker has now warned of a rough sleeping crisis sweeping Scotland – with young people bearing the brunt. Shea’s troubled teen years led to sleeping on the street and then a job with the homelessness charity which acts as his employer, the Rock Trust.
The 29-year-old warned the current crisis – caused by a chronic lack of homes – has led to new, alarming rises in youth homelessness.
Shea, who runs the Aff the Streets blog for the Rock Trust and advises the Scottish Government, said: “The situation is extremely worrying. For the first time in 13 years, the number of homeless young people is going up. Youth homelessness is massively over-represented in the overall homelessness population.
“Young people, aged 16 to 25, account for 10 to 12 per cent of Scotland’s population but account for almost a quarter of homelessness applications.”
Shea said a large “hidden” and under-reported group exists – of young people who are LGBT.
He added: “We still have many young people who are ousted from their family homes when they come out and others who feel they can’t come out. They are often not able to engage with their support networks and get isolated and ostracised. Things are certainly not as bad as they were a few decades ago but it’s still a problem.”
Youngsters who are leaving care are also at huge risk of becoming homeless.,
Shea said: “Care leavers ‘looked-after’ young people are another group that once again are hugely overrepresented in the homelessness statistics. If you have experience of being a looked-after child, there is a 50 per cent chance that at some point during your lifetime you will have to present as homeless in Scotland.”
Edinburgh-based Shea welcomed the recent focus on the homelessness crisis, which has seen the number of children stuck in temporary housing soar to almost 10,000.
He said: “Spending extended time in inadequate housing is traumatic and it can seriously damage life chances. I feel very lucky to have survived the experience I had, which was confusing and terrifying and made me feel very isolated.”
Shea’s extraordinary story involved him being thrown out of his family home in Edinburgh’s Barnton while he was still attending Royal High School.
He outlined years of abuse from his mother, who died several years ago, which led to him sleeping on the streets.
After his final banishment from home – “on December 14, 2010, just before Christmas in a very bad winter” – he ended up sleeping at a bus terminus and riding around on buses to keep warm, while continuing to attend school.
Shea said: “I had my schoolbag and a couple of changes of clothes and floated around and kept going to school. I used showers in gyms.”
He only received help when charity Move On were doing a presentation at his school. He was subsequently put in touch with Rock Trust and spent two-and-a-half years in one of their supported flats, at the age of 17.
Shea said: “I’ve travelled Scotland speaking to young people and relating their experience to government via various channels, hoping to influence positive change. We need to make sure that once people are in stable accommodation they are equipped to stay there and build their lives around a decent home.”
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