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Freed from a life on friends' sofas

WHEN CLAIRE McGoldrick left home at 17 she vowed never to go back - even if she was forced to sleep rough.

It didn't happen because she always managed to find a friend's sofa. And now the bubbly 20-year-old has turned her life around after becoming a leading figure in Shelter Cymru's peer learning programme.

Co-ordinators of the school-led programme claim young people relate to Claire, who tells her own heart-tugging personal story of "sofa hopping", as well as handing out advice on who and where to turn in a housing crisis.

However, the programme is now under threat (see above), and looks set to close at Christmas when National Lottery funding dries up.

"I always had friends who could put me up, says Claire. "But other young people are not so lucky and can end up out in the cold."

Claire, who comes from Llanelli, says it was her relationship with her dad that drove her to pack her bags and leave.

"There was absolutely no way I was going back home. It was make or break for me," she admits.

It was contact with homeless support agency Llanelli Foyer that led Claire to Shelter Cymru and the chance of a new life helping others. She now hopes her qualifications will help her to carve out a career in youth work.

"I think what I do is great because it makes young people think about what they do have," she says of her new role.

"And I always seem to face a barrage of questions when I give my presentations.

"People want to know more about the personal side of my story, where I slept, and what it felt like not to have a stable home."

Claire has managed to gain vital National Open College Network adult learning qualifications up to A-level standard as part of the project, something many homeless teenagers fail to achieve Jon Parvin, co-ordinator of the peer learning project, said Claire had been trained to deliver presentations to a high standard.

He said she was popular with young people and a real inspiration to them because of her troubled history.

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