Young person holding a martial arts trophy belt over shouder

Georges' Story: Life after Centrepoint

Georges became homeless in 2016 and was referred to Centrepoint through social services. He originally shared his story back in 2018, but five years after leaving Centrepoint, we spoke with Georges again to share his experiences and learnings.

Georges’ story of homelessness brings up a lot of emotion for him. “It’s good to cry,” he admits. “I think I’ve been keeping a lot of things inside. I always say to others how important it is to cry, yet honestly, I can’t remember the last time I did.”

Almost five years have passed since Georges moved on from Centrepoint and he feels like it had a big part to play in the man he is today.

Moving to the UK

Georges came to the UK when he was just 14 to live with his mother and younger brother. He had been living with his aunt in Cameroon since his mother moved to France when he was just six years old. The circumstances around this are too complex to expand upon within the confines of this story, but life in Cameroon had been challenging for Georges and he was excited to go and live with his mum again. He hoped his life would change for the better.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t that simple. For Georges and his mum, who had never formed a close bond, building a relationship was difficult, especially whilst also navigating a new country and forming a new identity.

As Georges reflects, “I was just hitting puberty, coming to a strange country, not speaking the language, trying to build a relationship with my mum and half-brother, to make friends, but also get to know myself and to try to fit in.”

“From the first day I put my foot into her house, she started telling me there was certain things I needed to do. She would shout, scream and mentally abuse me and when I didn’t do what she wanted, she would threaten to send me back to Cameroon.”

Family responsibilities

Georges mum often left him in charge of looking after his younger brother whilst she travelled.

“I said to her that I can't keep looking after my brother and turning up late to school - I had my A-levels to do at the end of the year and I need to concentrate. I asked if she could help me look after him and she told me I was responsible for my brother and I said ‘No, I'm underage. I'm not responsible for him. You have responsibility over the both of us.’ She kept saying things like ‘if you think you're not responsible for your brother, then take your stuff and get out of the house.’”

 “I told her I was going to stay at a friend’s house and she said that if I did that, she would throw me out. When I came home from the sleepover she was really angry and started screaming and shouting at me. She physically abused me, punching and beating me. I was covered in bruises and my clothes were ripped. I ended up escaping through a kitchen window and went to stay at my friend’s parents house.”

Finding empathy

Today, Georges looks back on this time with the fresh perspective that experience and maturity bring and says that he has found empathy for his mum.

“We have a much better relationship now,” he reflects. “We don't have that relationship that she has with my brother because we didn’t have the chance to build that when I was young. But despite this, I respect her and I'm grateful that she did her best to bring me here. I just don't think she had enough support at the time to deal with her own traumas and I was the only person who she could take it out on. She was obviously struggling to cope with everything and had no support network.”

Reflecting on support

But back then, with the situation as it was, Georges couldn’t go home. Georges stayed with his friend’s parents for a period, who advocated for him and a couple of months later, social services found him a room in a Centrepoint hostel. He had just turned 17.

When asked about the support that Centrepoint provided during that time, Georges becomes tearful.

“The whole team there were amazing. When I first got there,  they made me feel so welcome and helped me to settle in. They knew what I had been through and it can’t be easy for them to see the things that young people go through, but as a team, they were just there for me in every way. It was closer to college than where my friend lived and I was able to apply to the Centrepoint Bursary for travel money to get there.”

“Olu, my key worker at the time, was such a special person. He was constantly there for me, giving me advice, advocating for me, offering me opportunities. Even on days when he was supposed to finish at four, I remember several occasions where he would stay late just to talk to me. He meant a lot to me and had a real impact.”

Navigating feelings

To support Georges to work through the trauma he experienced, his key worker referred him to Stephen, one of Centrepoint’s in-house psychotherapists.

“I ended up getting about 30 sessions with Stephen and he was amazing with me. He helped me to work through stuff and I think he’s one of the main reasons I’m mentally strong now. He gave me the time to express it, to heal and to navigate my feelings. I was so grateful for those sessions after I moved into my own place and leading into Covid and lockdown. I had been going through hell in my own mind, but by the time I left Centrepoint, I was mentally strong and capable of dealing with things and able to be alone.”

Discovering his passions

Whilst living at Centrepoint, Georges achieved a great deal. He won an award, was part of the Centrepoint Parliament, spoke at conferences, and so much more.

“I felt like I was an empty bucket when I went in there, but by the time I left, I was strong and powerful like water. I learnt to strive for greatness and never to be complacent.”

Georges is passionate about martial arts, so much so that he worked part time in a martial arts gym and  money was raised to get gym equipment in the hostel where Georges lived. That equipment is still being used by residents today.

The present

Today, Georges is living in his own home and is now the general manager of the Martial Arts  Place where he started working when he was at Centrepoint. He has won many martial arts competitions, is in a stable relationship and is feeling mentally and physically strong.

He believes that Centrepoint played a big part in helping him get to this place of strength.

“I always say to my friends that Centrepoint will always have a place in my heart because they helped me through the most difficult time of my life. They also gave me so many amazing experiences. I went to so many events and met Prince William on more than one occasion. In fact, the second time I met him, he remembered my name. He shook my hand and said, “Hello Georges.” I was flattered. Meeting him was such a highlight for me. I think he has done a great deal for Centrepoint and to advocate for young people and campaign against homelessness.”

Words of wisdom

Georges would advise other young people to take opportunities like he did.

“It doesn’t matter how big or small, you just never know where it’s going to take you. I mean look at me, I had a small opportunity to work at a martial arts gym and now I am competing at a national level, and hopefully soon I will be able to compete internationally. When I was in the hostel, a lot of young people couldn’t see the point in participating in things. I used to say to them that every opportunity teaches you something and helps you to develop. I really believe in striving for greatness and I think that Centrepoint had a part to play in that."