Alice's Story: Starting the Bursary Scheme
Alice started out as a contracts manager for Centrepoint. Over time, her boss was seconded elsewhere and she then became acting head of services, development and improvement for a year. Later she shared the role of the head of contracts and information.
During the 40th Anniversary, Alice managed the 40th Anniversary project. Alice recalls it being “really exciting but also really stressful. There’s nothing like a dinner at St James’s Palace hosted by Prince William to put the fear of God in me!”
Managing the 40th Anniversary
One of the projects Alice managed as part of the 40th anniversary was Centrepoint's first garden at the Chelsea Flower Show. “The idea was to raise awareness of our work and to reach a different audience. The first year we had a group of young people who went through training at Wisley and then took part in creating the garden. I think it had a health theme and had flaxseed and other medicinal plants. I believe we won an award for it,” she recalls.
Alice with her mum in front of the very first Centrepoint garden at the Chelsea Flower Show in 2009
Prince William’s first official speech for Centrepoint was at the dinner at St James’s Palace for the 40th Anniversary. “At that point, he was in his 20s and everyone was really interested in the path he was going to take. Jools Holland played the piano, it was great.”
“We had a duo called the English Gents who were going to do some acrobatics and I remember being worried at the time that it was going to be too risqué as they wore sparkly pants and not a lot else. I remember thinking, are we actually going to have two men in their pants doing acrobatics at St James’s Palace? But we did, and it was great. It worked really well.”
“In his speech, Prince William talked about his mum and her involvement with the charity and how important it was to her. He said he wanted to continue that legacy and it was really important to him personally. He said he was always really inspired whenever he met one of our young people. His speech followed the speech of a young person which described her time at Centrepoint and how it had changed her life. He talked a bit about her speech. He’s is just a really nice man and that really came across in that speech.”
Centrepoint’s bursary scheme came out of the 40th Anniversary and the St James’s Palace dinner. “We couldn’t actually sell the tickets to event because you can’t make money from a royal event. I came up with the idea that we could set up a bursary for young people to help them get into education, employment or training. We could ask our major donors to put in £5,000 to the bursary, then as a thank you, they could come to the dinner. That was pretty successful – I think we raised about 200k alone from that event for the bursary,” she says.
Alice continued to manage the bursary after it was set up which she says was a rewarding part of the job. “It was great to meet young people who were really ambitious, but didn’t have the funds or support from their parents. Being able to facilitate them to achieve their aspirations was wonderful,” she remembers.
Valued at Centrepoint
“The wonderful thing about Centrepoint is its heart is in the right place. It was a really innovative place to work. It was really challenging work and on occasion would keep me up at night, but if you’ve got ideas, people will let you run with them which is very empowering. We wanted to set up a method to recognise staff effort and achievement so we started the Valued at Centrepoint monthly awards which was a great morale booster. It’s really nice to have an idea and for that to be supported: Not all the ideas come from the top down at Centrepoint,” she says.
Youth homelessness today
“The causes of homelessness are multi-faceted: mental health; drug and alcohol dependency; relationship breakdown; or a combination of all of these things. There’s something about isolation that’s related to homelessness. People who have nowhere else to go.”
“The situation, for young people in particular, seems to have got worse, not better. During the last ten years there have been a number of policy decisions that have meant that young people are unable to rent on the open market, not able to get full housing benefit and so on. I think the policy work that Centrepoint does is really important in trying to enact change and it does make an impact.”
“As a society, we need to have more compassion for young people. For example: those young people that get involved in gangs. It’s basically forced labour. You’ve got teenagers that are offered a pair of trainers by a gang elder and then they owe them something and they’re in. We criminalise those young people, but actually what choice do they have when they’ve got limited opportunities available? They might feel they’ve no other options,” she says.
“We must keep advocating for young people. We need to make sure there are adequate funds for the programmes we need to help young people in gangs or in poverty. In my opinion, we’re not doing enough as a society to fund delivering that work.”
Alice is now Director of Business Development at Evolve Housing and Support, one of Centrepoint’s partners. They work with 2000 homeless people – adults and young people across eight London boroughs, predominantly in accommodation which they own. Alice’s role is fundraising, business development, communications and property development.” It’s building on all the things I started at Centrepoint. If I hadn’t have managed the 40th anniversary, I wouldn’t have this job because it allowed me to develop so many skills.”