A HEREFORDSHIRE teenager whose life was thrown into chaos by a domestic upheaval that left him homeless faced another of life's trickier moments in Leominster.

Josh Stephens, 18, had to make a speech for the first time.

Men with big cameras and notebooks were hovering and the room was packed. The crowd included the Bishop of Hereford, the Mayor of Leominster and assorted bigwigs in suits and posh frocks.

Casually dressed Josh kept his baseball cap on. He beamed and remained unflustered; his relaxed approach put everyone at ease.

In a few words about his life he was able to illustrate why Herefordshire needs its Supported Housing for Young People project.

Speaking at the launch of the £400,000 'Leominster Foyer' in the converted Old Library, Josh told guests he had been in SHYP accommodation for 18 months after becoming homeless.

He enjoyed cooking nights and trips away, he said. Most importantly, he had been helped to get on a college course. (Josh told The Hereford Times he had gained NVQ level 1 in animal care and was keen to get a job working with animals).

He started off living in a supportive environment in a SHYP centre in Hereford, he told the crowd, and he was now at the next stage - another SHYP place in the city which involved less support.

"It's cool - it moves us along. It's exactly what I needed," said Josh.

The 19th century building has now been transformed by Leominster builders Harpers with the St John Kemble Housing Association which runs SHYP.

Two upper floors will house eight young people in independent or shared units. The ground floor has been leased to the Community Youth Service.

SHYP was candid when it lodged its planning application. It explained some tenants could be people with troubled pasts, including ex-offenders and youngsters who once had drug problems. The revelation made some fearful and objections followed.

The Bishop, who officially opened the centre last Thursday, praised the work SHYP was doing in the county, regretting that such projects were invariably dogged by "malicious rumours."

Praising the Leominster foyer, Bishop John said: "A lovely old building has been adapted with tremendous skill - it's splendid."

SHYP was helping deal with issues at the heart of community life."Being a young person is actually very hard work, even if you come from a comfortable and supportive background.

"Young people coming from troubled backgrounds can start life with real burdens," said the Bishop.

Guests were given a presentation on SHYP's work across the county which includes help for a variety of young people needing support and advice, including lone teenage parents, at home and in private accommodation.