Jamie has had her fair share of chaos. Over six years she has moved back and forth from her mum's, stayed on friend’s sofas, with boyfriends, and at a particularly low point, a tent in a park. She also privately rented with her brother and adopted her little sister for two years. Jamie stayed with Centrepoint on four different occasions during this period.
A turbulent home life
Jamie was initially referred to Centrepoint when her brother called social services. Their mother had been battling addiction for a number of years.
“I’d come home and my mum would always be drunk and she’d go out on these binges taking crack and stuff for weeks at a time. Me and my little sister would just be at home on our own and try to get food together. We often would have nothing to eat and no money for the electric,” she recalls. "When she did come back though, she tried really hard to get clean and be the mum we knew and loved."
Social services gave Jamie the choice of going to live with a family or being more independent at a hostel. She chose the latter and ended up at Centrepoint.
Jamie was under a lot of pressure at the time. She had just finished her GCSEs and was looking after her little sister in her mother’s absence. Centrepoint offered her some stability during this difficult period.
Adopting her sister
Two years later, at the age of 18, Jamie left Centrepoint services in order to adopt her little sister with her older brother.
“Me and my brother found somewhere really cheap to rent and we looked after her for a while. Because I was 18, social services said we could do that. We went to court and everything. Social services gave us a weekly allowance in order to support her. We managed that for two years,” she says.
However, they began to struggle when Jamie’s brother lost his job at the pub. They quickly got into rent arrears and it wasn’t long before the bailiffs came round.
“I was in contact with social services the whole time informing them that this was going to happen. They couldn’t find anywhere for all of us - they could put me and my sister into a B&B. I told them I needed the support of my brother in order to look after my sister. I wasn’t about to just leave my brother,” she says.
All this time Jamie knew this date was looming and that they’d effectively be homeless. “We ended up outside with all of our stuff and nowhere to go.”
Struggling to settle
Eventually, Jamie returned to Centrepoint in Soho. “There wasn’t anyone there from the management team, but a housing officer, Sarah, she just moved me in straight away into an emergency bed which was so helpful. I was in such a dark place and I really just needed my own space. It really helped me. They don’t normally do that, so it was quite amazing really,” she recalls.
“I lived there that time for about a year. Everyone there was so supportive. I said that I wanted to go to university and she helped me with my full application. She even went with me to the interview and everything.”
When Jamie was due to start university, she got her own rented room in West London near her university. She lived there for about six months, but felt desperately lonely. The heating didn’t work and she became really ill. She spent the next year and a half, moving back and forth from her mum’s to friend’s and even in with a boyfriend that she’d been with a matter of months. ” I didn’t want to, but I didn’t have a choice. We lasted about six months and he turned out to be completely crazy."
"I was just about keeping up with uni. My essays were terrible, but because I was at a performing arts college, there wasn’t a lot of written work, so I was just about OK. I wasn’t eating or drinking properly, I never had any money. It’s amazing really that I got through it all,” she recalls.
“I had to sleep rough at least three times. It was really scary. I have a tent and I slept in a park for 24 hours at a time and then sought help from the hostel again. I don’t know how people sleep in tents on the concrete. It’s heartbreaking.”
When Jamie had nobody to turn to for support and very little money, she was forced to do things that she might not otherwise have considered.
“I had no money, food or clothes at one point. I ended up stripping for a couple of weeks. It was just a means to an end. People did try and encourage me to get into dealing drugs which is tempting when you’ve got no money – but thankfully I didn’t go down that route,” she says.
The emotional support Jamie received from Centrepoint helped her to get through some difficult periods and keep her on track. “Just having someone to talk to was really important. I couldn’t get that from anyone else at the time. I always knew there was someone there downstairs and that was comforting,” she recalls.
“It’s so important that Centrepoint are there. There are so many opportunities - I went traveling to the Lake District and learnt about wildlife; I was donated clothing and food. I really connected with some of my keyworkers; I could really talk to them when I couldn’t talk to anyone else. It was those conversations that were important. They really kept me on track and stopped me spiraling and doing silly things," she says.
Jamie is now studying for her Masters in Dance and is hoping to set up an outreach project at Centrepoint as part of her course.
“I’m trying to get funding through the Arts Council. It’s collaboration between myself and other practitioners. It’s called the outreach expression programme. It’s aimed at the Centrepoint residents. It’s a weekly workshop of 90 minutes. Its purpose is to discover any creative potential or talent that the young people may have. We do this through dance movement therapy, yoga, talking and its aim is to help them draw out any particular interests or talent in order to give them more of a positive outlook on their lives and their future,” she says.