Young person wearing grey hoodie gazes out of a window

Tom’s story: finding his voice

Tom*, 19, was in turmoil and mental anguish when he first came to Centrepoint but also terrified that if he opened up about his feelings he’d be sent away. Since then, Tom has come a long way, he started receiving therapy from our health team and was supported into independence by the housing team. He has recently moved into his own flat.

Growing up, Tom felt like an outsider. He had a sibling on each side with different fathers, but he had no contact with his own dad due to domestic violence.

“Both my sister and brother had their dads around and I didn’t have that. I felt like the odd one out. My stepdad always tried to be my dad, but I didn’t like it and pushed him away. I felt angry and left out. I felt like he was trying to be my dad and I’d just get mad.”

Conflict and resentment

The conflict and resentment grew until it reached a bitter climax. Tom describes ‘seeing red’ and attacking his stepdad. The police were called and Tom ended up in a police cell.

“When I was in that cell, I looked at myself and asked myself what I was doing,” Tom confesses. “I thought, this isn’t me, I can’t be this person anymore. When my grandad came and picked me up, I started crying.”

Following this incident, Tom was referred to Centrepoint by social services in Sept 2019, but says he left because he wasn’t in the right frame of mind to accept help.

“I didn’t know what was going on with my life and I couldn’t cope,” he says.

Seeing his Grandad die

After sofa-surfing with a friend for a few months, the relationship deteriorated and Tom had to leave. Towards the end of this period, he also lost his Grandad to cancer. This had a huge impact on him.

“I didn’t get to go to his funeral. I saw him die on Facetime,” Tom recalls. “I was living at my mate’s at this point, it was the beginning of the pandemic and I couldn’t get there, nobody could help me. I said goodbye to him on a screen and then they turned off the machines."

“I lost the closest person to me and I didn’t want to go back to Centrepoint because I was deeply uncomfortable,” Tom admits. “I wasn’t bothered about my life. I just wanted to give up and end everything. The first person I would call when I was in trouble was my Grandad. But I really wanted to do him proud so that’s why I decided to go back and work with Bev, my key worker, to move forward,” he explains. “I rang Bev and told her that I couldn’t cope anymore and I would do what I needed to do to get myself together and move forward.”

When Tom first returned to Centrepoint, he was terrified. He knew he was suffering with his mental health, but he was afraid to say anything.

“I saw therapy as scary because I thought if I spoke, I’d get taken away. I ended up hurting myself to cope because I felt it was the only way I could cope without anyone knowing,” he admits.

Support from Centrepoint

Once back at Centrepoint, Bev was able to reassure Tom and help him feel safe again.

“I told Bev about my anxiety about being taken away and she put me at ease. She assured me they were there to support me. I knew I needed to talk about stuff because it was killing me. Every day it was killing me even though I’d try to put a smile on my face. Nobody knew what was going on inside my head,” Tom divulges.

“Bev encouraged me to talk about it. I feel better every day that I get help. Every time I speak to my Centrepoint psychotherapist, Amrita, I feel better. She gives me motivation to get up and talk to her.”

Bev says, “When Tom first came to Centrepoint he was very confused and anxious. There were times of challenge, but during key-work sessions Tom was reassured that we were there to support him. He began to engage with us and with the health team who provided therapy sessions. Tom has grown so much as an individual whilst on his journey and this makes me feel proud to see where he was initially and how far he has come.”

Getting prepared to move on to independence

Tom received tenancy ready support from Centrepoint, which helped him understand bills, budgeting and managing a tenancy. When he was ready to move on into his own flat, Bev helped him to bid for properties. They found a flat in an area where he wanted to view, but it turned out to be inappropriate for his needs.

“I knew the area and it was near people I knew so it looked good. We went to sign for it and when we got there, there were a group of teenagers with bikes, smoking weed. As soon as I stepped in the place and I heard them, my anxiety just went off and I felt like I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t believe that I had to say no to the flat because in every other way it suited me, but there was just too much anti-social behaviour and it would have really affected me. It reminded me of the stuff I had been through previously and I said to Bev, can we just leave?” Tom recalls.

Tom adds that Bev supported him with that decision and they eventually found a place more suitable and he has just recently moved in.

Living independently

Tom asserts that living on his own feels good because it feels like he is moving in the right direction.

“It is a big difference to live on my own. I’d made friends at the hostel and lived with those people for nine months, but having my own space is the most important thing. I can have mates over to my place, but I’ve also got space and time for myself. It’s made me less anxious,” he says.

Challenges of lockdown

For Tom, like many of us, the pandemic has had a negative impact. Motivation is difficult to maintain and he isn’t able to do the things that have a positive impact on his well-being.

“I used to play for a football team. I really miss it. With lockdown there’s no football, there’s just nothing to do. I have no motive, which is why I just want a job. I’ll get up some days and just want to go back to bed because my day is taking so long to go. I want to get up and feel happy that I’m going to work not just sat about at home thinking about nothing. Exercise is such a big part of feeling better mentally too. I need something to drive me through the day,” he acknowledges.

Hopes for the future

Tom has recently completed his CV with help from his Centrepoint floating support worker, Adam. He hopes to complete his Maths and English and get a job. He also has dreams to set himself up as a YouTube gamer on the side.

I’ve got a little gaming area in my flat which my sister is going to help decorate. I just want to work, play sport and stay motivated.”

Thanks to Centrepoint

“I just want to say that Bev and the team are amazing. They deserve everything. I’ve not been the easiest person and there have been times when I’ve shouted and given Bev some grief, but she’s always stood by me no matter what. They all deserve an award or something. Before I went there, I was in a right state and didn’t know where my life was going. I’ve come out of there and I’m totally different compared to how I was before.”

Amrita from the health team has also been amazing. She listens to me every Friday and it’s been the best thing for me; I appreciate it so much.”

Tom has also had help from our learning team and attended a two day course on CV writing, since working on his CV, he has been offered a job.

We are so proud of Tom and wish his all the best in his journey.

*names have been changed