For every homeless young person lucky enough to get a place in supported accommodation in Derry/Londonderry a shocking eight are left out in the cold. Vulnerable young people living in Derry’s Francis Street supported accommodation project have spoken out in a frank film about what it’s like to have a roof over their heads while so many others play the waiting game.

Headliners Foyle’s Big Lottery funded film project was with former and current residents of the city centre project which celebrates its 10 year anniversary this year.

The Voices for Change film highlights the lifeline that projects like Francis Street can be for many troubled young people, while also exploring the highs and lows of supported and independent living.

In the introduction to the film Paddy(20), a former resident, insists that ‘if it hadn’t been for Francis Street I'd either be dead, in jail or hooked on drugs.’

Manager of the  Francis Street project Adrian Kehoe highlighted: “For our last two flats that became available there were nine referrals for each of them. A lot of these young people have had really difficult lives and we want them to see Francis Street as their home and a fresh start. We plant the wee seeds in terms of how to look after their flat, how to look after themselves and maybe give them some form of training.”

While all of the current residents featured in the film are grateful for a place to call home some resent living under constant CCTV surveillance and openly challenge the need for curfews, alcohol/drug bans and visitation restrictions at Francis Street.

 Kim’s main issue is sharing the same building with so many different people. She says:”There are a lot of different characters put into the one house, like the Big Brother House and expected to get along. It doesn’t happen.”

Former residents share how their lives have turned around thanks in part to the support and encouragement of staff in Francis Street.

Colleen Maguire lived in Francis Street for three years. Colleen who lives with Aspergers and was recently awarded an MA Media Management and Policy shares: “My key worker while I was living in Francis Street was a really great fella. I have a form of Autism/ Aspergers and he understood me. He encouraged me with university and all.”

Many of the young people can’t wait for the ‘freedom’ of independent living and are grateful for how Francis Street has helped them prepare for this.

Stevie who has moved out but visits Francis Street regularly recalls: “Moving out in general was hard. You have to cook for yourself, you have to clean for yourself, and you have to do your washing and all. It was a bit lonely; you couldn’t just go down and talk to staff. After a while the staff at Francis Street became like family. They got me involved in different sports especially running and I have medals to show for it. I would love to get a career in sport.”

During the film former residents now living in the community stress that it’s only in hindsight they appreciate just how lucky they were to have a flat in Francis Street.

Francis Street’s doors have been open a decade and the fact that some of the young people  would like to work as support workers so that they can ‘give something back’ and help other young people like them is the testament to how worthwhile a project it is.

Paddy stressed: “I’m looking to do a Level Three in Social Care to apply maybe for a job as a support worker in Francis Street. I want to help people going through a similar situation that I did.”

Whatever their experience there is no doubt that Francis Street has been and continues to be a lifeline for some of Derry’s most vulnerable young people.  Adrian Kehoe highlights: “We are here for young people who have moved on but need support and we visit young people who have maybe left Francis Street 10 years ago. The door never closes on Francis Street.

View the film here Abode and Beyond