Children on the move

Living out of cardboard boxes, constantly trying to make new friends, not knowing where to call home - this is normal for children who grow up in insecure housing. 

Ali, nine years old, is one of those children. During the three years we got to know him, he moved three times. Throughout it all, he didn't stop smiling.

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Ali nine year old

boy brushing teeth

Ali, aged nine

Ali is nine, wearing a big grin and a jumper two sizes too big. He lives in a small flat on a busy main road with his mum and his younger brother, who he shares a single bed with. When the motorbikes and sirens keep him and his brother awake, he opens the window and tells them to be quiet.

His mum works part time in Lidl whilst studying at university and Ali is at primary school. Ali's dream is to be a professional cricket player.

This flat is Ali’s fifth home. And he is due to move again. He doesn’t know why or where. Neither does his mum. They don't want to move but they have no choice. Ali worries about being too far from school, being made homeless, having a landlord that doesn't like them.

children feeling worried about moving home

I’m worried about moving… Because first, if you can’t find a house you might have to go to the homeless place and then those houses are really little…also it might be bad neighbours and we might get a bad landlord.

ali ten years old

Ali, aged 10

Ali is still smiling but he’s in a new flat. It’s further from school and his mum’s work, but it was the only place available for people on housing benefit. He still doesn’t know what that means. 

He’s now part of a cricket team and looking forward to secondary school, although his friends are going to a different one. He’s excited but worried about everything he will need – uniform, pens, cricket kit. It’s a lot of money for his mum. She tells him not to worry about things like that.

Ali’s new area is nice, except for the teenagers who set fire to things in the local park. He doesn't feel safe there so he goes to another park a short bus ride away. There is also a pizza place and a shop where he can go to top up the gas and electricity meters for his mum.

young boy yellow t-shirt smiling

children moving house

Most of all, Ali likes that the new flat has carpets, a garden, two toilets. Ali thinks that their for-now home might even be suitable for normal people, people who don't move around all the time. 

So, Ali is happy, but his mum had already started packing. They would be moving again in a few months. He would be leaving his new friends and didn’t know how close to his big school the new place would be. The big space of the new flat was getting smaller as the collection of cardboard boxes grew. 

ali eleven years old

boy getting presents with mum

Ali, aged 11

Ali’s smile has grown more than the rest of him. He’s in a new place and getting used to his new school. He misses his friends but can’t call them as much as he’d like because he has no credit. School is expensive too but he tries to get by without wearing official logos and brands. 

Before the move Ali dreamt of playing hide and seek in a huge house. But the new place wasn't what he'd imagined. It was smaller and too scary to play hide and seek. It is however only nine minutes to school and him and his brother now have bunk beds.

If Ali had a magic wand, he would give his mum more money, because it seemed that life was easier with money. He says people with money had more fun, more opportunities and more things to do. 

No more bad moves

Ali, like many children his age, are incredible in finding ways to cope with their situations. They help with house moves and adjust to new surroundings, channelling their hope and energy into making the best of everything. 

But they shouldn’t have to live like this. Our research shows it's putting children’s hope, health and well-being at risk. Long journeys to school, living in dangerous areas and trying to hold on to friendships every time they move home is tough.

We work to end child poverty so children like Ali don’t have to work so hard to keep their friends, be focused at school and stay hopeful about the future.