Cassie was 17 and in the middle of her A-levels when her mum told her to leave.
“When I first approached the council, I felt like they didn’t take my situation seriously. They told me to go back home but it got worse and wasn’t good for my mental health,” she reflects.
Cassie spent a month sofa surfing with friends, but that took its toll on her, both emotionally and mentally.
“It wasn’t good for me - I didn't feel like I belonged anywhere. I was grateful, but felt like I could only be in the house when my friend was there because it wasn’t my space. She was out a lot partying and I just wanted to sleep,” she remembers.
After searching online, Cassie found Centrepoint and requested a referral from the council. A month before her 18th birthday, she moved in.
Cassie’s key worker Chantelle supported her in a variety of ways, from filling out forms and updating her CV to assisting her with official phone calls. She also helped Cassie with her application to university and securing her with social housing before she started university.
“I knew if I had a problem, I could go to someone I could trust and that was really important,” Cassie says. “I felt looked after.”
Following a difficult winter, the pandemic hit and lockdown ensued. Cassie found this period particularly challenging - not being able to have visitors and see her boyfriend meant her external support network was limited, but having staff around helped.
“They made it a lot easier because sometimes I just needed to talk and have a real human interaction,” she remembers.
The staff organised quizzes and challenges and Cassie won the art challenge recreating Picasso’s portrait of Marie Therese.
Mental Health Support
Cassie was further supported by Monica, one of Centrepoint’s psychotherapists. Cassie says it was having sessions with Monica for the past year that have had the biggest impact on her getting through this difficult period.
“I’ve had support I didn’t even know I needed,” Cassie says. “Monica has helped me so much; I wouldn’t have been able to do all this without her support.
“When I first came to Centrepoint, I was in a really dark part of my life,” she adds. “Knowing that I had a roof over my head, hot water, a nice warm bed and then also being told that I have a therapist to talk to, I was very emotional. I really appreciated it and definitely needed it.
“I think if I hadn’t found Centrepoint then my life would be very different. I’ve had more opportunities and developed a positive mind-set for the future. I don’t think I would be going to university if it wasn’t for Centrepoint. There were a lot of obstacles but I’ve really felt supported.”
A new chapter
Cassie has recently moved into her own council flat and started a degree in Fine Art. The Centrepoint bursary scheme has supported Cassie with a laptop and financial assistance each term. However, the transition from living with others to living on her own has had its own challenges. Due to the pandemic, much of her course so far has been online and that can become isolating.
“When I was at college, just having that interaction with people would improve my mood. Covid has just created so much loneliness and isolation. It was pretty difficult during lockdown even at Centrepoint, and that was with people around me. But now I’m in my own flat, it has just hit me how lonely it can be,” she says.
Her job at a pub has also been precarious with the changes in restrictions. The social interaction that was a key part of her job has also shifted.
“The thing I enjoyed most about working in the pub was talking to customers. Even though it can just be a 30 second interaction, I miss it. Now at the pub, you’re not allowed to come to the bar, you’re not allowed to stand at tables. The majority of the orders have to be done through the app. There’s no interaction with customers. Sometimes asking a customer how they were would make their day, especially for the older generation.”
Now in a second lockdown, Cassie has been furloughed for the second time and is anxious about supporting herself through university. However, having the continued support from Monica and her floating support worker, Rebecca, has really helped her to manage her anxiety since living on her own.
“I know that Monica genuinely cares. It’s really good to have someone in my life who cares, especially when I think about everything that happened in my life before I came to Centrepoint. To know that there are actually people that see a future in me," she says. "I’ve got my own flat and I’m at uni and I’ve got a job - for now at least. It’s not been easy and I can’t say that I haven’t struggled, but I feel like I’ve achieved and pushed myself more than I ever thought I could. I’ve made the best of what I’ve been given.
"My advice to any young people would be: let people help you. Even if you don’t think you deserve it – take the help."
We are inspired by Cassie’s resilience and attitude despite the challenging situation, and wish her all the best in this new chapter.
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