Hidden Homelessness: Meet Jenny

Jenny is seven years old. She shares a single bed with her mam in a small room in a house-share. All of Jenny’s clothes and toys fit into two drawers under the bed. There is a TV in their room and a fridge for some food and snacks.

Jenny is the only child that lives in the house. The other grown-ups that live there stay up late each night playing loud music and sometimes shouting. There are often visitors coming and going until after midnight. Jenny doesn’t like spending time in the living room or the kitchen. When she’s home she mainly stays in the bedroom. Every afternoon she does her homework on the bedroom floor while her mam cooks dinner in the kitchen. They usually eat dinner on their bed while they watch TV.

Despite not being very happy at home, Jenny is doing well in school and has lots of friends. She often goes to her friend’s house after school to play. She has so much fun playing games in her friend’s living room where there’s loads of space to spread out their toys. Jenny makes up excuses whenever her friends ask can they visit her house. She hasn’t told any of them that she shares a bed with her mam or that she eats her dinner on the bed every night.

Jenny can still remember when she and her mam had a home of their own. It was a nice apartment with a bright kitchen where Jenny used to eat breakfast every day. They had to move out of the apartment as the building was being refurbished. Rents in their town had increased so much that all Jenny’s mam could afford was a single room in a house-share. Her mam said it would only be for a little while, but Jenny has had two birthdays since they moved in.

For the last year Jenny has been going to the Barnardos Breakfast Club every day before school. She really likes eating a meal at a big table and talking with her friends every morning. The grown-ups who work there are really nice and are always willing to talk to Jenny about anything that’s bothering her.

But more than anything Jenny just wants to live somewhere that she can eat meals at a table with her mam and have her friends over to play.