While other 17 year-olds are looking forward to Christmas, James, is not.
James, (who asked for his name to be changed to protect his identity) is from Derry but has been without a home for the last few years.
As a result of family breakdown, James, moved from relative’s house to relative’s house, and when things hit an all time low he was referred on to First Housing by Western Health and Social Care Trust, social workers.
First Housing is a charitable organisation which offers advice, support and accommodation to people who are homeless and in acute housing need across the North of Ireland.
“I don’t think I would be alive today if it wasn’t for the help and support I received from First Housing,” said James.
“A few years ago my heart stopped beating because of a drug overdose - I was technically dead.
“When the ambulance got to me, the paramedics put me in the back and gave me three jumps of the defibrillator before my heart started beating again - it was very, very scary.
“Before I moved into this lovely accommodation in Francis Street I was taking every single drug that was going.
“I had no idea what stress I was putting my body under but since that time I have got my act together, haven’t taken any drugs and none of this would have been possible had it not been for the help, support and friendship from the people here at First Housing.”
The experience in the ambulance was so traumatic for James that he now refuses to take any medication of any kind.
“There’s a history of alcoholism in my family so I never touch alcohol and when it comes to headaches I refuse point blank to take any painkillers at all.
“I was prescribed tablets for my acne but I won’t even take them. I will never take another tablet unless I absolutely have to.
“I know I am still very young but if and when I ever have children I will drum into them the importance of not taking drugs and looking after themselves.
“Like I said to you before, I am lucky to be where I am today and it’s because of the team at First Housing that I am getting a second chance at life and I don’t intend to squander it.”
James will spend Christmas Day with several other young people who are in a similar situation in the special accommodation in Francis Street.
“I am not looking forward to Christmas at all, if I am honest with you.
“Don’t get me wrong, it’s great craic in here with the other ones and the staff. Everyone tries their best to make the day a good one but like everyone else I wouldn’t mind a normal family Christmas but there’s no point in going on about it - you just have to get on with it.”
Through absolutely no fault of his own, James has had to experience some things that many of us will only ever read about. James is not even 18 years-old yet and he has already had to grow up very fast.
“There’s always someone worse off than yourself and there’s no point in focusing on the past. There’s nothing I can do about that now but what I can do is make sure that it never happens again.
“This time next year I want to have my own job, my own little flat and I want to be looking forward to Christmas,” said James smiling.
First Housing, which has its base in Derry in Bishop Street, held a coffee morning in the Francis Street building on Tuesday.
Representatives and volunteers from many key statutory bodies were there.
Sandra Duffy is the First Housing Youth Accommodation Support Project Co-ordinator.
Sandra said she wanted to appeal to anyone experiencing difficulty at home or struggling to find somewhere to live.
“I think it’s important to know that not every person we work with needs to be housed in a home of their own.
“Sometimes, all it takes is for First Housing to act as intermediaries and work something out between the parents and the child.
“It’s also very important for people to know that First Housing is a charitable organisation that works with people from all sections of society - if you’re struggling to find somewhere to live because of your situation then we are here to help and we will do all that we can to make your situation better.”
For more information on First Housing contact the team at Youth Accommodation Project in Bishop Street on 02871 371 849.