I’m a homeless mum at 17 – and my own mum is a drug addict who ignores me in the street – The Sun
SHANICE never knew her own parents – with her dad in jail, and her mum a drug addict.
But the 17-year-old has already become a mum herself after falling pregnant at 16, and has spent a large chunk of her 18-month-old daughter's life living in a hostel after becoming homeless.
Along with her daughter Esmai, Shanice stars in a new BBC Three documentary, The Hostel For Homeless Young Mums, which documents their struggles while living in temporary accommodation in Luton.
She's one of over 20,000 homeless single mums living in the UK – and homeless charity Shelter say single mothers and their kids are disproportionately affected by rising homelessness in England.
And while Shanice seems like any other regular teen, dressed in a pastel coloured denim jacket with her curly hair in a top-knot, unlike most of her peers, she's constantly worrying about whether she'll have a roof over her head, and how she'll feed her daughter.
Dad's in jail, mum's a druggie
Shanice and Esmei lives in close quarters with nine other mums and their kids, all of whom are waiting in limbo to secure permanent council flats. They share a communal kitchen, laundry room and living area.
In the UK, councils have a legal duty to provide unintentionally homeless single mums or pregnant women with an emergency living situation, like this hostel.
Shanice has been living with Esmai in the hostel for eight months after her aunt and uncle kicked her out when she fell pregnant. She'd been living with them since she was a baby because her parents weren't fit to look after her.
"I never had a mum or dad," she explains.
"Dad was in jail and mum is a druggie. I see her in the street all the time. She walks past like she doesn't know who I am. Makes me sick.
"I never want to be anything like her. I do not understand how you can pick drugs over your own children."
Esmei's father is 18 years old and sporadically comes into her and her daughter's lives.
"I'm happy with the way my baby daddy is most of the time," she insists.
"I get her to myself. I don't have to share her. When he's there, he's there.
"But when's he's not there, he's not there. There's no in between."
She says emotional support has instead come from the other mums in the house who give her advice.
'I couldn't abort my twins'
Like Shanice, 19-year-old Katie became a mum for the first time at just 16.
She has been living in the hostel for a year-and-a-half with twin three-year-old daughters Alice and Athena.
"I don't have anybody. I don't talk to my mum any more. I don't talk to my dad. So I feel alone," she reveals of her situation.
The father of her children isn't in the picture either.
"He was my first ever boyfriend. I was in love," she says.
"He wasn't really romantic. He just liked to have a lot of sex, and whenever he wanted it.
"But he was toxic and destroyed my confidence and self-esteem.
"He was for me having an abortion, because I was 16 at the time.
"But when I found out it was twins it made it harder for me to have an abortion."
Katie is doing a childcare course at college but is struggling to juggle being a single mum with studying.
In the documentary she falls asleep in one of her exams and admits she is constantly exhausted.
'We're not promiscuous'
Kychia, a 24-year-old resident with daughter Alyssa, says as a young mum, people assume she's "really promiscuous".
"Because I didn’t abort my baby I’m seen like this. There's a lot of girls who have had so many abortions, it doesn't look bad," she points out.
Kychia says that she knew she didn't want to abort or give up her child, because she was adopted herself.
In the run up to the birth she says she had been "naughty" and was "chucked out" by her adoptive parents, and was sofa surfing when she fell pregnant.
She tells the camera that she wants to hold a fifth birthday party for her daughter, but that she's worried the "stigma" of the hostel would put other school parents off letting their kids come round to play.
Kychia adds: "It’s not nice being stuck in the system, being spoken to like you are nothing because you are on benefits."
When asked if she knows what a hostel is, her daughter sweetly explains: "It's a building where lots of people live if you can't live anywhere and you only have a little bit of money."
'It's a scary place'
The longest resident of the hostel is Talamika, 22, who was pregnant with son Amari, now two, when she moved in three years ago.
"It's a scary place. You're with people that you don't know," she says. "You're by yourself. And you can be here for a very long time."
When she told ex-boyfriend Terry that she was pregnant with their child and didn't want to abort her, he wasn't keen on becoming a young dad.
She revealed: "He dropped me when I needed him the most".
Following the birth, Terry – who now works as a stylist in the music industry – began taking a more involved role in his son's life, and regularly visits the pair from London.
"I'm a cool dad and he's a cool kid," he says of their father-son bond, as Talamika jokingly rolls her eyes.
During a visit he makes her waffles. "Only God knows if we'll get back together… it'll happen when he decides," he says of their relationship.
Talamika's long stay at hostel is due to an outstanding £3,000 debt.
After moving in, she began working as a revenue control officer for Thameslink, earning a salary of £26,500 in a job she enjoyed.
But mum-of-one didn't realise that as by earning that salary she was no longer on a low enough income to be entitled to benefits from the government.
For a period she was receiving both, which is not allowed, and meant she was not eligible for the free services she had been receiving from the hostel.
She was asked to pay £3,000 back to the government and remain in the hostel until she had done so.
“Now because I owe the hostel money, I can’t leave until I’ve paid it all off,” Talamika explains.
She is seen breaking down in tears as the final amount is paid off and she becomes eligible to move into a council flat.
"“Oh my god, I’m gonna be gone. I’m gonna be out of here!” she says.
Her smile reveals her relief that Amari – like eventually all the children at the hostel – will now grow up with a stable home.
And in a happy twist of events, Shanice is also allocated her own permanent council flat shortly after her 18th birthday.
While she grins as she hoovers the grey carpet as Esmai runs around, it's clear from her lack of belongings and sparse furnishings that it will be a while before it feels like their first proper home as a family.
"I never thought I’d have my own place and a baby at 18, "she says, sitting on her new double bed. "I feel like I’ve skipped the teen part of my life, but I’m happy now."
The Hostel For Homeless Young Mums is available to watch on BBC Three on iPlayer now.
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