Homeless teenager who met a prince is pursuing media career

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The Independent Online

It was a classic case of two worlds colliding, as the heir to the throne sat down to share a cup of tea with a homeless teenager.

But the reality of Ali Iyiguven's situation is far removed from the typical tale of the destitute drug addict begging for spare change on the street.

An ambitious student keen to carve out a career, Mr Iyiguven highlights the tragedy of the thousands of teenagers who are forced to sleep rough on the streets of Britain this Christmas.

Until last week, the Turkish-born 18-year-old was looking forward to spending Christmas at his family home in London.

But after a violent argument with his stepfather, he old found himself without a home and sleeping rough on a park bench.

He will now be spending Christmas at the Centrepoint charity shelter in Soho, where he met Prince William earlier this week

Mr Iyiguven described yesterday how he came to be homeless, and spoke of the challenges that he has had to overcome. He described his overwhelming fear after spending the night destitute and shivering in the December cold after a series of turbulent rows with his stepfather.

"Arguments started with my dad. They were arguments about money," he said. "Mum had died and dad remarried, and some of the arguments were also about his new wife.

"I slept in the park the first night in King's Square in London. It was cold and foggy. It wasn't good. I was scared of the foxes.

"I was also scared that I could end up like one of those teenagers forced to live on the streets. I decided I was going to do something about it."

The next morning, he went to Islington council for help and eventually found himself at Centrepoint's Safe Stop Scheme, which offers nine days of emergency accommodation to the homeless.

Mr Iyiguven, who is at college studying for a BTec first diploma in media studies, was born in south-west Turkey. He emigrated to Britain with his mother when he was one, after his father died. He and his brother, who is now 10, and his sister, 12, were later joined by his stepfather.

"Those years in Turkey were hard so we came here for a better life," Mr Iyiguven said.

But he added that in spite of the sadness of losing his mother, who died from cancer three years ago, as well as facing homelessness, he was determined to forge a successful future.

"I would like to be a camera operator or editor. I like using cameras and filming stuff," he said.

"I've done a Trouble on the Streets documentary about crime and gun culture as part of my course. I've also worked with the Turkish television channel, Kanal-D, as a camera assistant. I used to work for video production company in London. I would love to work in the media industry, somewhere like the BBC."

The teenager, who is fluent in Turkish and Kurdish as well as English, said he felt positive about the future, and that he was looking forward to celebrating Christmas at the Centrepoint shelter.

"I have not celebrated Christmas with my family because they are Muslim, so I'll get to celebrate it with different people and lovely staff," he said. "Who knows - maybe Prince William might drop by again."

Mr Iyiguven is now hoping to be placed in temporary accommodation and sign up for a permanent home next year. But for the time being, he is grateful that he is spending Christmas and New Year's Eve safely indoors.