Candid experience of being homeless as a teenager and living on the streets

Drugs and alcohol filled the life of 16-year-old Callum, and as a result he became homeless. Today he reflects on his four-year journey of getting off the streets, beating his addictions, and now doing a job he loves.

Callum Leach was 16 when his life spiralled out of control by excessive drink and drug taking – to the point that the relationship with his family broke down. He was homeless and living rough on the streets.

“I ended up sleeping on the streets for three months,” says Callum from Hull.

“It was terrifying. On a regular basis I was getting beat up by passers-by who were drunk. One time I ended up in hospital with my face smashed open, and my eyes swelled so I couldn’t see. I kept to myself, begged to survive and get by. I would visit churches that opened their doors to homeless people and get washed there.

“I was taking drugs more heavily, mainly cocaine and cannabis which had increased a lot when I was homeless because it was the only way I could get through it. It was a scary period of my life,” he added.

Former resident Callum Leach, 20, visits Terry Street homeless hostel in Hull. Here he is with Riverside support worker Paul Slaney-Cooper (left) and Sean Bobczuk from Catzero
Callum Leach, 20, with Riverside support worker Paul Slaney-Cooper (left) and Sean Bobczuk from CatZero.


After three months living on the streets of Hull, the teenager finally had enough and decided to seek help.

He was referred to Riverside’s Terry Street Young Persons Centre, a homeless hostel in Hull. Although it was an unsettled start for the teenager. It was after his second spell at the hostel when he collapsed on the floor that he realised he wanted to change his life.

Callum said: “I was 16 when I first came to Terry Street but I was still taking drugs and drinking heavily. It was my second stint staying there when I collapsed in the reception area. An ambulance came and I was rushed to hospital.

“I hadn’t slept for six days because I’d been drinking and taking drugs. I was 17-years-old at the time and can remember it clear as day. It clicked in my head ‘What am I doing?’ and I decided then I wanted to change the way I was living my life.”

With help from staff at Terry Street, Callum began addressing his addictions and getting clean. As part of his recovery he started volunteering with a youth charity called CatZero and rebuilding his relationship with his parents. He left Terry Street when he was 18 and now lives with his dad in North Bransholme.

Now four years on, Callum is enjoying life and looking forward to the future. In November, thanks to his volunteering work, he was offered a full-time role with CatZero to help others by mentoring them and looking after the charity’s yacht.

Callum Leach, former resident of Terry Street homeless hostel in Hull with his Riverside support workers Paul Slaney-Cooper (left) and Neil Papworth.
Callum with his Riverside support workers Paul Slaney-Cooper (left) and Neil Papworth.


Looking back Callum reflects: “If it wasn’t for Terry Street I reckon I’d be dead now. It was hard coming off the drugs and alcohol, but I had a key worker and staff there to help me through it.

“I definitely 1000% recommend the Riverside homeless schemes, especially the support given. I still visit regularly to say ‘hello’ to staff and keep in touch with everyone.”

Paul Slaney-Cooper, Callum’s support worker at Terry Street said: “We are all hugely proud of Callum and how he has got his life back on track. It’s fantastic to see him now peer mentoring others who are going through a similar situation that he did. He is a fine example of how even through the most difficult of circumstances, any youngster can turn their life around.

“We are always pleased to see Callum when he visits and hear about his yachting adventures. He’s now an ambassador for CatZero and we are all so pleased for him.”

Callum added: “I’m really proud with what I’ve achieved. I can’t believe where I am today after what I’ve been through. I’m now helping others to turn their lives around through my own experiences.

“I’ve gained qualifications and I’m doing some more to become a skipper. I love my job – part of it is working on a yacht doing repairs and sailing around the British Isles, and the other half is mentoring people who are going through similar experiences to me.

“I look back and regret that I’ve ruined my body. The side effects of taking drugs has took its toll. I have mental health issues and paranoia. I’m still getting through it and the counselling is ongoing. I look back and it’s quite scary and terrifying what I’ve experienced and witnessed. But I feel really good now and on top of the world.”

Terry Street Young Persons Centre provides accommodation and support for people aged 16 to 25 who are homeless or at risk of homelessness to help you get on track.

Find out more about Terry Street here.