50th Anniversary: Kerry's Story
In 1978, Kerry ran away from Wales to London because of trouble at home. When she arrived in London, she met other homeless people who told her about Centrepoint. She stayed at the night shelter on Shaftsbury Avenue on three occasions for a period of nine days in total.
“You had to queue outside. I knew it was one night in three, but at least on that one night you could get a shower and a proper sleep. It was dorms with bunkbeds,” she recalls.
For Kerry, one of the biggest challenges in those days for homeless young people was staying hidden from the police. “Their attitude in those days was - send them back to their parents. The child was basically always in the wrong. The child was either an attention seeker or badly behaved or whatever, but that’s how it was in those days,” she says.
“You spent a lot of your time being afraid to go to known public places because the police would be around. Things were horrendous at home for me to come all that way and there was no way I could go back.”
Helpful and loving staff
As a fourteen year old, Kerry imagined the streets were paved with gold and that she’d be able to find a job easily. “I didn’t really think about identity and driving licences and stuff at that age,” she remembers.
Soho at the time was not a safe place for a fourteen-year-old girl. “I did get approached by all sorts of nasty people. I looked quite young as well which caused problems. It was very scary, but still better than being at home.”
Kerry recalls the staff at the night shelter being friendly and welcoming. “I can remember the staff being really nice; I wish I could remember their names,” she says. “There was one lady in particular that I really liked. She worked as a nurse in one of the hospitals near by and volunteered at Centrepoint as well. She was the first person really who I felt treated me not as a naughty child, but somebody who was running away from home for a reason; something that was bad enough to make me run away and sleep on the streets two nights out of three. I confided in her a bit and she was the first person really ever who listened to what I was prepared to say”.
“After I was at Centrepoint, I was admitted to hospital because I was suffering a miscarriage. They then sent me back home. I continued to run away and eventually I was put in a children’s home run by Barnardo’s until I was 16 or 17 and then I was on my own again.”
A safe place for young people
Kerry believes that these days, people are taken more seriously when they have to run away from home.
“There is a different mentality now,” she says. “There’s an understanding that if a young person has run away, there’s a reason why. People understand that the vast majority of people do not choose to be homeless. That understanding wasn’t there in my day. Nowadays, people look at what’s going on in their lives and try to support them through that more.”
“Meeting that woman at Centrepoint and having someone to talk to; it made me realise that there were people out there that did want to listen. It may have taken me a few years to realise it after I’d left, but it always stayed with me.”
“If I could speak to my younger self or another young person experiencing similar problems I’d tell them to trust their instinct. Find someone to confide in who you trust. Don’t keep everything bottled in.”
Becoming a room sponsor
“I support Centrepoint now because they choose to be there for young people. They listen to the young people and create a safe space for them.”