A House Is Not A Home

Here is a talk I wrote for a housing organisation when I first started life coaching. I am now currently working with a housing trust to provide work placements for the young people supported by the trust and thought this is just as relevant today as it was almost two years ago when I originally wrote it.

The talk is discusses what I believe a home should provide and the role it plays in the development of young people.

There are 3 vital things a person needs to survive. They are food, water and shelter. A house represents the physical “shelter” that every person needs however, a home is the emotional “shelter” that is just as important to survival as the physical shelter a house provides.

A home is a place where a person feels safe, protected and loved. It is a place you go when you feel tired, sad, lonely or sick. It is a place where there are people to look after you and people you can look up to. It is a place you feel comfortable, where you can be yourself and where you are surrounded by things you like. Home is the one place you should feel completely happy and at peace.

Every young person needs somewhere and someone to go to, to feel safe. They all need someone they can turn to when they are in trouble or feel sad, scared or alone, as well as someone they can look up to. They also need someone they can share their joys and achievements with and someone who offers them encouragement, advice and support. Unfortunately, for some young people, the physical shelter of the house they live in does not offer them the emotional shelter of a home. Young people that do not have a “home” will seek this elsewhere. These include school clubs, friend”s houses, older brothers and sisters as well as on the streets. This increases the risks of young people becoming targeted by gangs and older, not so desirable members of the community. For a number of young people, gangs offer them all the characteristics of a home – a place to feel safe, people they can look up to, people looking out for them and appearing to have their best interests at heart, as well as other people of a similar age experiencing the same emotions and life experiences.

For young people, home should be a place where they go and there is someone there to provide them with love, food and security; a place where there is someone who takes an interest in them and spends quality time with them as well as a place where they can identify with and feel that they belong. A home should also be a place where the young person learns about life and valuable life skills.

Values, beliefs and morals are built throughout a person’s life from the moment they are born and form the person they are today. They are formed via the influences of the people around them as well as by the way a person perceives their own experiences in life. Home is one of the main places a young person develops these personal traits. A home should be an environment that positively influences a young person’s values, beliefs and morals which then enables them to deal with everyday circumstances such as conflict resolution and understanding other people’s point of view as well as how to effectively manage their emotions. This increases the extent to which they can take control of their own lives and enables them to fulfil their potential and be confident, positive contributing members of society.

Growing up poses its own challenges for young people, and not having a home not only removes the support system that young people need to slots deal with these challenges, it poses additional challenges for them, challenges they are not equipped to deal with at a young age. This can cause a young person to feel alone, scared, resentful, angry as well as many other negative emotions. This is when they are at most at risk of forming their own negative and sometimes immoral values and beliefs which may not serve them in a positive or constructive way. It is also when they are most likely to start displaying negative behaviour to gain affection, recognition and attention. A lot of young people are impressionable and easily influenced and not having a home can also cause them to turn to other people outside of the home who may not be positive influences, as well as to drugs, alcohol or promiscuity.

And it doesn’t all disappear once the young people become adults. The negative influences of not having a home often follow young people into adult life. When it becomes time to setup their own homes, they often only know the home environment they grew up in, whether this be in a house with their parents or guardians, or on the streets with gangs. Either way they will incorporate the same behaviours and beliefs within their own home and with their own children. So unless young people are taught how to break negative thought patterns and behaviours, as well as vital life skills, the negative cycle will continue and more and more young people will grow up in a house not a home.

With the challenges that life poses today and the pressures of the western world, it is increasingly difficult to provide a home in every sense of the word. Ironically, now it is more important than ever for young people to have a home. For young people to develop into positive, happy and confident adults, they need to be nurtured just as plants need to be from seeds. They also need to be taught vital life skills to allow them to become leaders, not followers and enable them to fulfil their potential and make positive informed decisions about their lives and their futures. And a home provides the perfect environment for this.

I have been lucky enough to grow up with a home which I believe has been a major influence on what I have achieved in my life so far. Although I no longer live in the physical house I grew up in, my home is still as much a part of my life as it was when I was growing up and continues to positively influence my life.

Home is still the place I go to when I feel sad, upset or alone. It is the place I go to if I need to feel safe or need advice and support. It is the place I go to to share my successes and achievements and finally it is the place I know I can go to and truly be myself.

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