Cameron* had a difficult time growing up. His mum lost custody of him when he was younger. She suffered from schizophrenia and was unable to provide adequate care for him. Since then, social services tried to place Cameron with various family members, but sadly none of them worked out. As a teenager, Cameron ended up sofa surfing in inappropriate situations, which put him in danger.
“I was staying with someone I thought was a friend, but they weren’t. It was a toxic situation. I got paint stripper thrown in my eye and now I am partially blind in that eye. It wasn’t safe for me, but I had nowhere else to go. It was that or sleep on the streets,” he says.
“My so-called friend subjected me to physical and mental abuse. It was petrifying because they thought it was funny. I felt like I had no reason to live. If life was going to be like this, then what was the point?”
Following an unsuccessful placement with his uncle, social services referred Cameron to Centrepoint where he met supported housing officers, Chantelle and Lee. They showed him around, helped him to settle in and told him about the expectations and structures in place to support him. Cameron says that without that support, he wouldn’t be where he is now.
“I wouldn’t have got back into college. I wouldn’t be going to university. I wouldn’t be alive,” he says. “I was just feeling that there was no point in life before I came to Centrepoint. The support from my support workers, Chantelle and Lisa, has been everything really. I could rely on them. It was the small things, like having someone to talk to, but Chantelle also helped me move house – she got me on the council waiting list, she helped me set up my Universal Credit. Everything.
“Before Centrepoint I didn’t have any stability,” Cameron adds. “I was in toxic situations with toxic people, living a toxic life. I was doing stuff I shouldn’t be doing, taking stuff I shouldn’t be taking, but that was because I didn’t have a secure place. When I moved to Centrepoint, I had that headspace; I had security. I wasn’t around those people. I had support. I had a reason to live so I could do something with my life.”
Cameron recently moved into his own council property which has provided him with security and stability, and he has just started his degree. Lisa, Cameron’s floating support worker, has helped him secure a maintenance grant and he has been supported further by the Centrepoint bursary.
“It’s good that I have student finance, but it’s not enough to live on and go to university. Students need to buy books and laptops and if you don’t have family support, it’s difficult. Travel and rent is expensive. My washing machine broke just the other day so I was so grateful that I had the bursary money to cover that. The bursary is like a helping hand for me because student loans can’t cover everything.”
Cameron says that despite the challenges of starting a degree during a pandemic, he is looking forward to the future.
His advice to other young people is this:
“There is always hope. My partner always says to me, ‘There’s always a solution to a problem. Every problem can be overcome.’ There is no point in giving up.”
We are very proud of Cameron and wish him every success is his education and future endeavours.
*names have been changed
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