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Wednesday, 11 July, 2001, 11:32 GMT 12:32 UK
Dance star's homelessness crusade
Sonique and pupils
Sonique: First hand experience of homelessness
Dance music star Sonique has gone back to the classroom to launch a campaign to tackle youth homelessness.

The Brit award-winning star - once a rough-sleeper herself - returned to her old school at Crouch End in north London, to endorse homeless charity Shelter's new educational plan, Housemate.

Housemate was devised after Shelter consulted homeless young people across the UK, none of whom had learned about housing and homelessness at school.


Like so many others who are homeless I felt vulnerable, afraid and alone

Sonique
Sonique, real name Sonia Clarke, was forced on to the street aged 16 after her mother moved back to Trinidad and she was desperately unhappy in a hostel.

The 32-year-old chart topper said: "I have first hand experience of what it is to be homeless. It was one of the lowest points of my life.

"Like so many others who are homeless, I felt vulnerable, afraid and alone and my life was put on hold. I felt I was in a big hole.

Sonique: I was lucky

The Housemate pack for secondary schools contains activities and materials to stimulate debate and understanding of housing and homelessness issues.

Sonique, who was this year's Best Female Artist at the Brits, returned to Highgate Wood School to speak to a group of 12 and 13-year-olds.

She said: "Through hard work and good fortune I've got my life together and now enjoy a rewarding and successful singing career.

Homeless people in the street
Homelessness project aims to raise awareness
"However, others are not so lucky and that's why I'm supporting Shelter's Housemate educational campaign.

"Homelessness is as relevant to kids today as sex and drugs awareness.

"The more young people learn about homelessness, the best chance we have of preventing it in the first place."

The pupils were pleased that Sonique had paid them a visit.

Sharifa Brown, 12, said of the scheme: "It's a good way to get children involved and makes everyone very aware of homelessness which is important and a big problem.

'Knowledge gap'

"If people know the problems they can do something about it."

Lance Downer, 12, said: "It's good that Sonique is here as she went to our school - she is a great person."

Cassie Thompson, 13, said: "Sonique is a busy pop star but she is thinking about other people and not just herself like some pop stars do."

Shelter is delighted to have such a high-profile supporter.

Charity director Chris Holmes said: "Sadly too many lives are blighted by homelessness because of a lack of understanding and knowledge about what it means to be homeless and how it can be prevented.

"I hope that teachers in secondary education across the UK will use Housemate and in doing so help reduce youth homelessness."

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See also:

05 May 01 | UK Politics
Homeless bill 'likely to fail'
20 Dec 00 | Northern Ireland
Vigil focuses on homeless
24 Oct 00 | UK
Young 'fear homelessness'
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