Rich, 25, experienced three periods of homelessness since the age of 17. Despite the uncertainty and instability, he has kept on moving forward and he is now in an apprenticeship in London and living in one of Centrepoint’s Independent Living Properties.
Homeless and sofa surfing
Rich* first became homeless at age 17 after losing his job and no longer being able to live with his Dad. He sofa surfed for a number of months until he had exhausted all options and spent the next two years bouncing between hostels.
On the streets in winter
Eventually, he moved into a privately rented property, but because he lacked certain budgeting skills (essential when living on very little money), he was living hand to mouth and was evicted due to rent arrears. He ended up on the streets in December 2019 when it was bitterly cold. Luckily, he was able to stay with family for a couple of weeks over the Christmas period, but he was anxious about what the New Year would bring.
“I was feeling like there were no options and I was going to be like this forever…that I would be homeless on the streets. I’ve been street homeless in total for 28 days in my life and I’ve never slept whilst on the streets. I was up pretty much for nine days straight one time. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone,” he remembers.
Once offices reopened in the beginning of January 2020, Rich went to the housing office at the council and they put out a referral to multiple providers.
A referral to Centrepoint
“The first one that got back to me was Centrepoint, but they were based in Bradford and I was in Huddersfield. That day, I ended up walking around until the early hours of the morning as there wasn’t time to arrange somewhere to stay. I just had to stay awake until I could get a bus into Bradford. That morning, I took the first bus and when I arrived, they put me in Nightstop, where hosts provide a room for a person in need for a few nights until I could move into the Centrepoint service," he remembers.
As one of the eldest residents at the hostel at age 23, Rich didn’t need a great deal of day-to-day support, but help was there if he needed it.
“Centrepoint were really good on a number of levels,” he reflects. "I was a little bit older so I saw the benefits of engaging in a different way to maybe someone that was younger."
Rich talks very fondly about his key worker Michelle:
“If there was ever an issue, she helped me deal with it. Any barriers to employment or training, she’d sort it. In one instance, she drove me to the doctors so I could register. I had support the whole way. She also gave me a lot of budgeting advice. Nothing was too much. Nothing was out the way.”
Early on in his time at the hostel, Rich secured a hospitality apprenticeship in London and was due to make a move into one of Centrepoint’s Independent Living properties. However, when the UK was put into lockdown in March, everything stopped; the apprenticeship was put on hold and eventually withdrawn altogether due to the damage to the hospitality sector. Because of the restrictions to movement, Rich’s move to London was also put on hold.
Lending a helping hand
Despite this bump in the road, Rich managed to stay positive and keep himself busy at the hostel. He helped out wherever he could.
“I was one of the eldest and I got on well with the staff. It was a good environment, it was a happy environment. I used to help unload lorries, cut the grass, cook and water the plants. I was seen as a role model to a lot of the other young people,” Rich remarks. “I built up a lot of relationships with them and was good influence. Young and vulnerable people can get caught up in bad behaviour so it helped them to see that someone coming from a past just like them stayed positive and followed a positive path. I encouraged people to join the gym and participate in events and groups.”
Throughout Lockdown, Rich continued to apply for apprenticeships in London, but despite having a strong CV, was not getting any offers which he felt was due to him having a Bradford postcode. In the Spring, he moved down to London into an Independent Living property in Lewisham and continued to apply for apprenticeships, eventually securing one in the summer. The flexibility that the Independent Living Team offered, allowing him to move in before he had secured a job, meant that he could start moving forward. “The trust they had in me, meant a great deal. I felt like they saw my potential.”
Centrepoint's Independent Living Programme
Centrepoint Independent Living is a new initiative to help employed young people who have come from homelessness or are at risk of homelessness, move into independence from supported accommodation . The idea is to offer them a stable and affordable (a third of their salary) alternative to private renting or waiting on a housing list.
“The whole idea of Independent Living attracted me straight away,” says Rich. “£7k a year in London per year is amazing for a young person like me, just starting out in their career. I know that it’s stable and that I have time to calculate my next move. It gives me the opportunity to save and think about the future.”
Rich is now in an apprenticeship as a production assistant for a bespoke furniture company and has settled in well. The road for Rich has had some bumps, but he has managed to stay on track and stay focused on his goals.
“There have been many times when I could have given up, but I tried to stay positive despite the knock backs and cancellations.”
Just stay positive
Rich advises other young people in similar situations to do the same; to stay positive and accept the support that is provided. “I was brought up thinking don’t bite the hand that feeds you. Centrepoint Staff come in every day to be there for you. My advice would be to accept all the help you can get. The support might not always be available to you so use it whilst it’s there.”
We are so impressed by Rich’s resilience and ‘can do’ attitude. We know he will go on to big things. Good luck Rich!
*names have been changed