Your teens can be a challenging time. Up to this point life has been relatively straight forward. You wake up, pull on your blazer, spend the day in school, come home, head to the park with your mates, do your homework, have your dinner, watch a bit of TV, then go to bed. The next day, you do the same thing all over again. The structure of childhood gives plenty of time to dream about what the future has in store, free from the realities of adult life.
Then you hit your teens and suddenly you are faced with some challenging decisions: what am I going to do with the rest of my life?
Thankfully, most of us face this question with the support of our families. Living at home, we have time to explore the options open to us and with the guidance and experience of our parents make an informed choice about how we turn the dreams of childhood into reality. In that context, with choice and youth on our side and the support of our families behind us, no wonder our teens are perceived as being an age of opportunity. It is often forgotten that, caught between childhood and adulthood, it is also a very vulnerable time.
What if you don't have a supportive family? What if you fall out with your parents? You spend a couple of nights on a mate's sofa. Then, when his mum says you can't stay there forever, you tell her you're going home even though you haven't resolved your differences with your parents. You head home and try to patch things up, but you end up getting into another row and you leave, this time with nowhere to go. With no other option you decide to spend a night on the streets.
You find a spot where you think you can bed down for the night, but someone who is older and has clearly been on the streets longer than you moves you on, telling you that's his spot. It starts raining and you walk for the next two hours trying to find somewhere quiet and dry. After hours of being on your feet, you find a forgotten alleyway. It's by no means safe, but there's a doorway where you can shelter from the rain. You sit with your back to the door, cold, wet and desperately clutching everything you own in a back-pack you hastily packed before leaving home. And you think to yourself: what am I going to do with the rest of my life?
If your life is a doorway, a backpack and the sodden, dirty clothes you are dressed in, then it can be easy to feel unloved, miserable and devoid of any hope for the future. Last year in the UK, 100,000 young people faced a night on the streets. One in three attempted to commit suicide.
On Friday 4th of October Byte Night will host overnight 'sleep out' events in Belfast, Birmingham, Cambridge, Edinburgh, London, Manchester and Reading to raise money to help vulnerable young people to keep their dreams alive. Through Action for Children, Byte Night supports projects across the UK, that offer young people a way out of a life spent on the streets.
Registration for this year's event is open and we are confident that we can triple our current number of sleepers and encourage over 1500 people to join us on Friday 4th October at events across the UK. Together we can keep vulnerable young people off the streets and help them to build better lives with access to education, hope of a career and somewhere to call home.
Sign up to sleep-out now at http://www.bytenight.org.uk