Young person wearing a hoodie, green jacket and backpack with back to the camera looking at a row of houses

Jay’s Story: This pandemic changed my life

Undiagnosed narcolepsy combined with a global pandemic meant that Jay found himself homeless after having to defer his university course. With alternative options of staying with extended family limited due to Covid, he sofa surfed for a brief period before seeking help from Centrepoint.

Undiagnosed narcolepsy

Whilst studying engineering at university, Jay was suffering with undiagnosed narcolepsy. He spent a lot of time in hospital, which meant he missed exams. The university advised him to take some time to focus on his health and to defer his course. He decided to take a year out and go back to it.

Unable to go back to the family home

When his student tenancy came to an end in June 2020, he had hoped to go back home, but his Dad told him that he expected him to be independent now that he had left home.

Jay’s alternative would have been to go and stay with his Grandma, but due to the pandemic and the fact she was elderly and vulnerable, that wasn’t an option.

One of his sisters said he could stay with her on the condition that he helped look after the kids, but because Jay was working on a construction site, he couldn’t make it work. Sometimes his shifts would start at 7am and that didn’t work with taking the kids to school. He tried to make it work for a while, but he was late all the time and at risk of losing his job.

“I was there for about a month and it ended up being a train wreck,” he says.

“I needed to have some money coming in. When I was at university, I was teaching piano to support myself, but when the pandemic hit, it wasn’t possible to continue; I didn’t have the facilities to teach over Zoom when I moved out of my student flat, so I had no other options than to work on a construction site.”

In August, his sister told him that he had to leave. Jay went to stay with family in Birmingham, but had to come back for a hospital appointment in Manchester.

It was at this hospital appointment that Jay’s narcolepsy was formally diagnosed. The scans confirmed he had narcolepsy straight away. He is now on medication, which helps him to manage it.

Getting support from Centrepoint

Jay was anxious about what he would do for accommodation with all options exhausted, he googled Centrepoint and found the number on the website. He called the helpline initially and they booked him in for an assessment later in the day and connected him with Steph from the Homeless Prevention Service in Manchester.

“The staff [at Centrepoint] were super helpful, it was really easy to be honest. People obviously need this help otherwise there wouldn’t be people in emergency housing. There were lots of people like me in similar situations due to the pandemic.”

Centrepoint were able to find Jay emergency accommodation and now he has moved into more long-term supported housing.

Misconceptions of homelessness

Jay has enjoyed meeting people from different ‘walks of life’ that he came into contact with at the hostel.

“A lot of them were a lot older, they might have had kids, run-ins; a lot of them had been in and out of prison or the army. I saw it as an opportunity to ask questions and learn about people. I used to talk to homeless people on the street, but it’s different when you’re actually living under the same roof as them, you find out about their lives; they are sound and so much more resilient than other people. Even though they must have experienced animosity and hostility, they are still friendly and nice to be around.”

“As this year shows: a normal situation can just be made worse by the pandemic." Jay says. "If it wasn’t for Covid, a lot of the people I was speaking to would be in better situations or have more options. A lot of people find themselves in that situation through no fault of their own.”

Whilst he was staying in the emergency hostel, he also started his own business, doing portraits.

“I used the opportunity to turn things around for myself and now I’m getting quite a few commissions. which is great!."

Employment support

As part of the wrap-around support that Centrepoint offer, Jay was introduced to Dee and Lee from the Centrepoint Activities team in Manchester who told him about opportunities that he might be able to get involved in. He has been involved in the re-brand and redevelopment of Centrepoint’s Manchester Hub with a group of other young people so that the redevelopment of the space is user-led.

Lee also helped Jay to secure an internship with the Manchester International Festival, which he is really excited about. “It’s going really well and I’m really excited about where this may take me,” he enthuses. I am so thankful to Lee for putting me forward."

“I am finding things difficult with my condition. Sometimes I might plan an evening of work, but I will fall asleep and that disrupts any sort of schedule, but they are all super nice so I know I will be able to keep up. We’re about to launch the press release to announce this summer’s festival.”

We are really excited for Jay and think has a bright future ahead of him. We wish him all the best in his endeavours.