Shaneice Roberts, Steff Needham and Cat Jones from Us Unltd, Flint
2011 Inspiring Young Woman Winners

This year’s recipients are three girls who have turned their own experiences of homelessness into a business, helping those who are going through the same experience.

Shaneice, Steff and Cat are among 12 members of Us Unltd, a group of young people based in Flint who have one thing in common – they’ve all been homeless at some point in their lives, sleeping wherever they could find shelter, be it hostels or friends’ sofas, and even cars and fields.

Being homeless is just one of the obstacles these girls have had to overcome. At the age of 11, Shaneice was the main carer in her family. She not only had to look after her little brother but also her alcoholic parents. At such a young and vulnerable age, she faced the trauma of witnessing her parents’ physical domestic abuse, self-harming and suicide attempts. Schooling came a distant second to ensuring her parents’ safety and, funded by stealing from her mother’s purse, buying food and clothes for her and her brother.

Foster care has transformed her life. She no longer drinks as she did when with her birth parents, and has pursued her education with vigour.

Steffani was neglected by her mother and left home to live with her father at the age of 11. It was a short-lived move as she says her father didn’t care for her either. It led to a life ‘sofa-surfing’ and ultimately living in hostels. At one point she felt so low that she thought life wasn’t worth living. Cat too has been through desperate times but the three girls decided to turn their lives around.

With the help of various support networks, the girls and the rest of the group decided they wanted to help others going through similar experiences. Their aim? To open up a drop in centre and cafe called The Getaway, where youngsters could meet, have a shower, wash their clothes, find support from people who understood their plight in a way no-one else can and generally let off steam.