Young person wearing a hard hat on a construction site smiling and looking directly at the camera

Katy's story: Construction shouldn't be a male domain

The Centrepoint Bursary has made such a difference to Katy* throughout her carpentry course. It has provided funding for clothing, carpentry tools as well as travel to college and construction sites which has made it possible for Katy to access as well as sustain her training. She is hopes to go on to work in construction management.

A difficult start

As a teenager, Katy suffered physical, sexual and mental abuse, which led to her leaving home at 18. Initially, Katy stayed at her friend’s house, paying rent and contributing to household bills with her salary. However, after nine months, she had to find somewhere else and had no choice but to sleep rough on the streets of London.

Homeless and vulnerable

Katy says she approached her local council several times for help. On one occasion, they suggested that she sleep outside a station in the hope of being ‘picked up’.

“I was homeless for about four years after that,” Katy explains. “I moved around from squats and sofas to park benches and churchyards. It was scary. I look back now and think, ‘Wow, I was so vulnerable.’ My mum had made it clear that if I left home, I was never welcome home again and there was one night where I remember feeling particularly desperate. It was winter and it was cold and wet. I had work the next day. I was supposed to stay at my friend’s house, but she wasn’t answering her phone so I ended up having to stay in the park. The saddest part was that I had picked up loads of groceries for my friend to say thanks for letting me stay. I had to leave the shopping when I climbed over the fence to sleep in park.”

Despite what she had been through, Katy maintained a full time job for a period whilst homeless, but eventually the lack of stability and no fixed abode meant unable to maintain her employment and she ended up staying with a family member outside of London.

Finding some stability

Eventually, after four long and difficult years, Katy found New Horizons who helped her secure temporary accommodation. Katy says that it was only at this point that she finally felt heard. “It was the first time in so long that I actually felt like I was being listened to rather than being passed on. The place I was given wasn’t much, but after everything I had been through, it was a palace. It was a roof. I had a key. It was mine, at least for the time being,” she reflects.

Six months later, Katy was referred to Centrepoint. She describes this as “a turning point in my life, as it provided me not only with a place to live, but allowed me to gain achievements, education and qualifications. Through Centrepoint, I was able to discover what I wanted to do as a career.”

Finding a vocation

Katy goes on to explain, “If it wasn’t for the training team at Centrepoint, I wouldn’t even be in construction now. They had a placement scheme and I had three choices: construction, hospitality or admin. I’d never thought about going into construction; I’d always seen it as such a stereotypical man’s domain and dismissed it without thinking and decided on admin instead. By chance, I was lucky enough to sit in on a talk at Centrepoint given by retired construction manager called Ruby. She really inspired me. It made me realise that the construction industry is vast and she challenged my misconceptions. I definitely hadn’t ever considered the management side. At that point, I decided to change courses. Thanks to Centrepoint, I was able to get a CSCS card through the bursary and started a two-week placement. I completed that placement and passed with flying colours. I was then able to choose my specialism and start a course at college and here I am, now in my third year! I could go on to do a fourth year, but I am going to see where I am in the summer. Eventually, I would like to eventually go into management.”

Vital financial support

When speaking about the impact of the Centrepoint Bursary support, Katy says, “The bursary has covered my travel throughout my course and this has made such a difference to me. I would only be able to afford a take a bus as college cover that. However, takes me 75 minutes each way, but because the bursary cover my tube travel, it halves my travel time. The bursary has also funded my equipment, tools, books and uniform without which I would have struggled to complete my course. I am so grateful.”

Looking forwards, Katy has mixed feelings for what the future holds; she is nervous as well as excited. She will complete her college course in summer 2023 and has plans to pursue her career with Centrepoint’s support. Whilst she is grateful to Centrepoint for all they have done for her, she looks forward to eventually moving out of the service and into independence.

Whatever she decides to do in the future, we believe Katy has a bright one!

*names have been changed