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Tackling the root of the problem, with care

Young people who come to Centrepoint often have a range of different and complex problems, and supporting them isn’t as simple as giving them a home. Many will have a mental health issue, such as depression and anxiety, and others may need to tackle issues with substance misuse.

Meet Shaun. Shaun is Deputy Manager of Bell House, a Centrepoint service in Sunderland for young people with a history of drug use.

How long have you worked for Centrepoint?
Four and a half years.

Tell us a little bit about your role at Centrepoint?
Well I manage an excellent team of six. We run a structured daily timetable designed to help stabilise the young people, create a routine and build self-living skills and confidence. We work together across teams at Centrepoint to offer the young people all the resources and tools to achieve their goals.

What led you to work for Centrepoint?
Before I was working in a Pupil Referral Unit School and during the school holidays I was asked by a friend if I would like to do some shifts at Centrepoint as Locum worker. I agreed and by the end of my first shift I knew I wanted to work with homeless young people and Centrepoint.

What challenges do young people with a history of drug use face that others don’t?
Young people who persistently abuse substances often experience an array of problems, including academic difficulties, health-related problems (including mental health), poor peer relationships, and involvement with the juvenile justice system. Additionally, there are consequences for family members, the community, and the entire society. With these issues and challenges it becomes even more difficult to gain employment and secure a stable home.

What challenges do you face on a daily basis?
I don’t see any part of my job as a challenge - I embrace the obstacles and enjoy supporting young people no matter where they are in their journey. However, the biggest challenge I have found in recent years is the new psychoactive substances (legal highs). This deadly substance has had a huge negative effect on those that have used it making it very difficult to make changes in their lives. There was a time when every day I thought we would have a death in the service due to legal high use, it was deeply upsetting seeing the young people wasting away.

What does your weekly schedule look like?
No day is the same and although I have plans, no plan survives and I can almost guarantee they’ll change daily.

What keeps you motivated?
There are so many reasons why my job is motivating. For example a young woman I supported who had been in the care system for 10 years, recently completed her journey with a fulltime job and a beautiful home.

Another example is, one evening last August I was driving home when I noticed an ex-resident was on the wrong side of the Wear Bridge and was planning to commit suicide. When the police officer told him I was there he agreed not to jump but only if he could move back into the Centrepoint service as we were the only organisation he could trust. This was a real occasion Centrepoint saved a person’s life.

Every day I come into work and see young people living in a hostel, most of them have mental and physical health issues, no family and friends, all of them have very little income and all have suffered some sort of trauma. However, every day I am welcomed into work with a smile and enthusiasm. If a young person with these kind of issues can get out of bed then there’s no need for me to look for motivation. That is all I need.