Emilyn – If I hadn't come to Centrepoint, I probably wouldn’t even be alive today
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How Centrepoint provided accommodation and support to a homeless young person so she could live independently.
Emilyn was homeless at 17, suffered with depression, dropped-out of college and began smoking cannabis. Centrepoint provided her with safe accommodation and support to live independently.
Watch the video to hear Emilyn talking about her experience. The video also features Leoncha Leavy, Centrepoint’s Participation Manager.
Emilyn was 17 when her father threw her out of the house after a violent row. Continuing a pattern that had started when she was 14, she stayed on friend’s sofas until the council placed her in a B&B. With no knowledge of income support or crisis loans, Emilyn had no money and often didn’t eat for days. Suffering with depression, she dropped-out of college and began smoking cannabis.
After two-months of being homeless, Emilyn was referred to Centrepoint by her local council. After an initial assessment she moved into their hostel in April 2007.
“I wasn’t doing much when I got to Centrepoint, I had no confidence and I just stayed in my room all the time”, says Emilyn. “But a sailing trip with Centrepoint to the Isle of Wight changed things. Being away from my normal life gave me space to think. In that week I stopped smoking cannabis and decided I wanted to focus on college and work for my future.”
“When I came back to Centrepoint I did cooking and budgeting workshops and learnt to be independent. They were really supportive. There’s always someone from Centrepoint in the hostel 24 hours a day and having someone to talk to made all the difference for me.”
Accommodation, support, confidence and skills
Over 80,000 young people will experience homelessness in the UK this year. Centrepoint work with young people like Emilyn to provide accommodation and support, build confidence and teach people the skills they need to live independently.
Leoncha Leavy, Centrepoint’s Participation Manager, explains: “When a young person arrives at Centrepoint they are assessed. We bring services together in one place by working with our health team and looking at employment, training and education with our learning services.
“We have a volunteer service, providing young people with mentors to support them to get back on track and we also have the Centrepoint Parliament which gives young people a voice, both within the charity and central government.
A two-way dialogue
“It’s very much a two-way dialogue, working with young people to help them get the support they need and ensuring everything we do is youth-led. We see an incredible transformation in young people. Not only have they sorted out their life but they also frequently return to give something back through peer-to-peer support programmes and the work of the Centrepoint Parliament.”
As Emilyn continued to be supported by Centrepoint, her confidence grew. In December 2007 she became a youth educator, responsible for training other young people in schools and staff at organisations that work with young people at risk of homelessness.
Emilyn is in her final year at university
Emilyn returned to college and moved into her own flat in January 2009. She is currently in her final year at university where she is studying psychology and is the captain of the netball team.
Emilyn adds: “I’ve recently worked with Centrepoint as a Policy and Participation Assistant which gave me the opportunity to speak at events and conferences. Those experiences made me decide that when I graduate I want to become a clinical psychologist and help improve access to mental health support for young people.
Everything I’ve done at Centrepoint has grown my confidence and I haven’t looked back – it is the best thing that ever happened to me. If I hadn’t come to Centrepoint, I wouldn’t have finished college and I certainly wouldn’t be at university. I probably wouldn’t even be alive today.”
I became homeless in January 2007 and that was due to family relationship breakdown and basically I wasn’t getting on with my dad very much and ended up in one massive argument one night and well he kicked me out the house.
Initially I went to stay with some friends I went to the council and they wouldn’t help me with a hostel because I didn’t have any identification. I didn’t have my passport, didn’t have any bank statements, I didn’t have a letter from college so they didn’t want to put me up anywhere until I had all those information with me. So I stayed with my friends for two weeks and then the council put me up in a bed and breakfast
The bed and breakfast was basically a room with a bed, a sink and a fridge and that was basically it, nothing else. I didn’t have, I didn’t have any clothes when I moved in there, just had the clothes that I was wearing.
I was referred to Centrepoint by my local council and that was through an assessment centre where all young people have to go with high support needs, low support needs and they assessed me to have high support needs and it was Centrepoint hostel who happened to have a high support needs hostel in the area, so that’s how I got referred to them.
At first, before I moved into Centrepoint I had an interview with one of the key workers there, I guess it was just to find out my background and just to find out what needs I might have and how they can support me in any way.
We have about 80,000 young people experiencing homelessness in the UK currently at the moment, and Centrepoint works with quite a high percentage of young people who are coming into our services.
I think the biggest thing is that when our young people come to us they are obviously experiencing homelessness so they are feeling quite vulnerable, feeling quite scared, and, and unsure. So basically the first thing for us is that they meet with their support worker in the services and that they build up an element of trust. And so once they start to build up that rapport the support worker will sit down with them and, and work out what do you want, need to do, what do we need to do for you but also what do you need to do for yourself.
So it’s like that two way support to say, what do you need to do to get back on track and to get back into independent living? And, and to you know live and lead your life really.
First of all we provide a home so house and support is key when they first come to us ‘cause obviously some of them have come from the streets or come from sofa surfing, living at friends and so on. So the first thing is a house, a home, and then the second thing is to provide them with a different range of support. So it could be for example, links to employment, training and education possibilities, to go to university, get a job. The other things that we provide is, we have opportunities for them to link into for mental health issues. We have a lot of young people with a range of complex different needs, you know drug and alcohol issues. So, mental health, you know health and well being is really important, so we link them into those services. We also work with them around volunteering opportunities, so being able to become a mentor, or to be mentored and be coached and supported to get back on track.
And the work that I’m involved in is obviously Centrepoint Parliament so to provide them with a voice to make sure they are actively involved in Centrepoint but also lobbying Government on change.
I guess I was just quite happy to just have somewhere to live, and by that point I wasn’t going to college, I started doing drugs, I’ve suffered from severe depression, I was self harming, I’d commit suicide earlier on and I was just, it was very low point in my life for me so coming to Centrepoint was the best thing that could have happened for me.
So while I was at Centrepoint I had to do the Lifewise programme and that basically enabled me to do the cooking workshops, budgeting workshops which is what I needed to do cause I didn’t know how to budget 45 pounds a week, cause I basically had to pay for my food, my rent, my travel to college and I didn’t know how to do that. And they really helped me to make sure my rent was paid on time and that I knew how to cook food and I can live independently.
I think the biggest thing that at Centrepoint, I think that it is a two way dialogue and I think that is really important. I think that there is a lot of opportunities available to them but what Centrepoint staff do really well is they work from where that young person’s at. So one young person might want to take things a bit slowly and it’s about working with that and then allowing each opportunity to come when they’re ready. But I think that we provide a holistic support and I think that it, it’s not just a home, it’s not just a roof over their head, it’s about what else do you need to sustain that house, to stay in that home and also to go to university, get a job. So it’s that holistic thing that’s really important.
I was at Centrepoint for one year and because of the support I received from Centrepoint I was able to move quite, become, I was able to become independently quite quickly. And that meant that I only stayed there for one year and it enabled me to go, apply to go to university and actually try and do something with my life. And erm, one of the things I actually got involved with Centrepoint was the Youth Educators Programme and that basically meant that I was able to, I was trained up to run sessions with young people and staff, I was able to get like a little insight into how Centrepoint works. And I was able to build up on a lot of my confidence skills cause I was quite introvert when I was a young person there and I became a lot more confident delivering sessions to, to staff and also to the young people about different issues to homelessness, gangs and key work sessions as well and it prepared me for when I went to university.
At university I’m currently studying an undergraduate psychology course and I’m in my fourth and final year at the university in the moment.
For me, living at the Centrepoint hostel was the best thing that could ever have happened to me, I wouldn’t be here right now if it wasn’t for Centrepoint. They helped me not just to have a home or someone to stay with; they actually gave me a new start at life. They helped me get back into college, they helped me deal with my depression, have a better understanding about my depression. They helped me come off the drugs. They also supported me in any other issues I might have had whilst living there but also when I moved on and they gave me an opportunity to work with them and learn and develop my skills for when I graduate after Kew University. And I’m just really am happy that I’ve got the opportunity to be in Centrepoint hostel cause I know a lot of people never get that opportunity and I’m very grateful for it.
Centrepoint provide accommodation and support for homeless young people, helping to build their confidence teaching the skills they need to live independently.
“If I hadn’t come to Centrepoint, I wouldn’t have finished college and I certainly wouldn’t be at university. I probably wouldn’t even be alive today”.
Published: 16 April 2013