ARE YOU HOMELESS, SOFA SURFING OR AT RISK?

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Catherine's story

After struggling with homelessness and experiencing mental health problems, Catherine took control of her life.

Now she’s in a safe place of her own, growing in confidence and determined to help others.

a traumatic childhood

Catherine had a normal family life until she was eight, when the relationship with her dad became extremely volatile. It got to the point where the violence and chaos in the house became unbearable.

"My dad used to drag me up the stairs by my hair. He'd do really weird things like lock me out of the kitchen so I couldn't go and make myself something to eat," Catherine recalls.

"He used to call me pathetic, call me fat and say that I wasn't getting anywhere."

Because of the abuse, Catherine developed an eating disorder. She ended up in hospital on many occasions.

Catherine started to struggle to cope with the outside world. Wanting to escape, she started drinking, taking drugs, and hanging around with the wrong people.

With nowhere to go, Catherine turned to sofa surfing with strangers or sleeping on the streets. Catherine fell into abusive relationships, staying with men who were controlling and violent.

"Sofa surfing isn't nice. You're constantly on edge. You feel like a huge burden because you've got no money, you've got nothing to offer them back," says Catherine.

"Your self-worth becomes even lower than what it was before. You're dehumanised."

"I never thought, me, a homeless girl could do the things I've done"

Everything changed when Catherine came to Centrepoint.

Thanks to the strong relationship with her support worker Lorna, Catherine felt like she had a safe home where she could start to recover.

"Lorna and the other support workers at Centrepoint were amazing, says Catherine.

"They sorted out my money and paperwork, took me to the doctor, referred me to a mental health specialist and helped me kick the booze."

Knowing she had a passion for writing, Lorna helped to find some incredible opportunities for Catherine. Soon she was writing about her experience of homelessness and mental health for famous newspapers and websites. She even appeared on Channel 4 to give her opinion on the state of the nation's mental health.

Now Catherine is living in her own place and planning her next steps in life.

"I never thought, me, a homeless girl, could do the things I've done," she says. "I want to go into schools and tell kids all about homelessness and mental health. I want to tell them young people on the streets are living in total chaos," she says.

"They need more than a room. They need someone to give them their self-esteem back. It's all about supporting the individual to have a future."

Catherine, a Centrepoint young person, with her Lorna, her support worker.

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