young black person with braids in a white and navy t-shirt in front of a wall

Malik’s Story: Learning to see the bigger picture

When Malik* arrived at Centrepoint, he had been asked to leave his family home. His parents had strong beliefs on how Malik should act and behave, ingrained in a traditional and conservative concept of manhood and he struggled to meet these expectations whilst struggling with his own sense of identity. Since being with Centrepoint, he has made friends, started an apprenticeship and has been supported into his own home. 

Feeling alienated

I have two brothers and two sisters and we are all very close in age, but I always felt very different from them.  I felt like I couldn’t be me in my parent’s house. They are amazing and provided me with wonderful opportunities, but I couldn’t be open with them about things and I just needed my own space – we were arguing a lot and in the end, I had to move out.

Difficulties sofa surfing

I became homeless and sofa surfed for a while. It’s depressing to sofa-surf; you’re living in someone else’s house, with someone else’s parents and you feel like you’re in their way. It was intense; I felt like I had no space and it felt suffocating.

Finding space to grow at Centrepoint

Luckily, I went to the council and ended up with an amazing housing officer. She knew the Centrepoint hostel would be perfect for me. I have my own space here, but I am also around other young people and I have the support of the staff when I need it.

During lockdown, It was good for me to be around other young people. I made some beautiful friendships. Everyone was very different, but I felt like I was able to bring people together. I was cooking in the kitchen and I encouraged other people to come and cook with me. Even the staff commented that the hostel wasn’t the same before I was there - I changed the energy. In the hostel, every young person has a story. Living here allowed me to learn about other people and help other people. It has been one of the most beautiful experiences I’ve ever had.

Making connections during lockdown

We all went through days where things were difficult during lockdown. We were missing our families, but we became each other’s family. We celebrated our birthdays together, we got each other presents. I saw improvements within everyone in there. We all positively impacted each other. I get goosebumps thinking about it.

Training and employment

I’ve recently started a new apprenticeship. At first, I had social anxiety and things like that, but I tried to leave it outside the building and when I'm at work and I’m enthusiastic and inquisitive. Coming from a hostel background and not having your parent’s support or financial support is hard, but you’ve got to have the right attitude.

The Centrepoint Bursary has helped me by providing a laptop, which means I am able to do the tasks for my apprenticeship remotely which has been a huge help.

Valuable life lessons

At first, I felt funny not having nice clothes to go to work in and it affected my mental health, but something Albert (service manager) said really made me think of that another way. There was a rip on his jacket and he said something like, 'I’m the manager of this hostel, but I wear the same clothes day in day out. It doesn’t define me as a person. What defines you as a person is what is on the inside.' Those words are what got me though – big up Albert! He’s amazing. I felt like I knew everything when I first arrived, but I humbled whilst living here and realised I didn’t know everything. I showed Albert that I could be proactive: I got myself a bike and started doing Deliveroo, then I moved onto an Amazon warehouse job, then I moved onto a Covid test site.

When I first came here, I had past issues relating to my mental health and confidence. There were a few issues at the beginning of my journey relating to my reactions to situations. After working with Albert, he was able to show me smart and productive ways on controlling these reactions to negative situations. One example was that he showed me was a bottle with rocks and sands, he would shake the bottle until the sand and rocks would mix and leave their original position and then he would wait for the rocks and sand to return to their original positions.  This showed me that things in life will not always run smoothly, however, with patience, everything will return back to their positions in the same way that the rock and sand returned.

Albert also encouraged me to start journaling. He suggested that I write five things I am grateful for every day. This has had a massive positive impact on my mental health as this allowed me to focus on the blessings in my life whereas before, I was focused on the negatives.

Albert has had a massive positive impact on my growth within Centrepoint. He has been the person whom I can rely on during the hardest times and has consistently given me advice and support when I needed it. He also has taught me a lot of handy tips and tricks on how to handle the day-to-day struggles which vulnerable young people such as myself can face.

Previously, my motivation was more personal, but I’ve since realised that there is a bigger picture – and that helping others helps yourself. It makes you happy. I used to look at my life and think it’s not good enough; I was constantly thinking about what I don’t have, but now, I’ve learnt to appreciate the smaller things. Since I’ve begun to think in this way, it’s like I’ve received blessings from the universe. I’ve found myself in a relationship for the first time which is so lit. You get back if you give, that’s how I see it.

Moving forwards into independence

Finally, Albert helped me to secure my own home with the council and Pertti from the jobs and employment team has given me such good real world advice. There were times when I wasn’t sure whether to continue with my apprenticeship, Pertti encouraged me to continue and taught me the value of seeing the bigger picture; that even if this might not be what I see myself doing long term, it will help me on my journey. Eventually, I would like to go into teaching and Pertti has been so supportive of that idea.

Now that I am in my own place, I am so happy. I have a bedroom, living room and even a balcony. I’m looking forward to putting my own stamp on it.

*Names have been changed