Homeless in the 90s
When Jessica’s mum kicked her out when she was just 16, Jessica ended up at Centrepoint. She then moved through three of Centrepoint’s services in the 1990s.
“A friend of mine had a sister who had been in night shelters before,” Jessica recalls. “So my friend took me to a place in London and they directed us to Centrepoint in Soho.”
When she arrived at Centrepoint, Jess was allocated a key worker and told about the rules.
“You had to be in by 8pm at night, which was quite nice because it made me feel safe. I liked the routine. I shared a room. It was very short stay at the shelter. You were only there for a few weeks, but I really liked it there. I got to see my keyworker regularly which was a massive help.”
Centrepoint had connections with other organisations that could offer activities for young people and they would encourage her to get involved.
“When I was 17, we went on a sailing course for team building, things like that were just amazing.” Jess recalls.
Feeling safe and secure
For Jess, having a keyworker provided her with vital support.
“Just having someone to talk to and sort things out was so helpful,” she says.
“They helped you to sign on so you could pay your rent. You had a really strict routine; all meals were at a certain time and you had curfews and it just made me feel safer. I felt secure there” she recalls.
Centrepoint also helped Jess to make new friends and learn basic life skills.
“There were loads of people there that were my age group so we felt like a bit of a family in a short amount of time. We looked out for each other.” she remembers.
“The second place I lived, in Camden, it was just girls. There were six of us and they would give you a certain amount of money a week and they would teach you basic life skills. You’d go food shopping together and learn how to budget, things like that. It changed my focus a little bit. We had no idea how to be independent and it taught us those skills we needed.”
In Jess’s opinion, homelessness is far more hidden than it used to be.
“The thing with London is that there are loads of homeless young people, but you don’t see them; they’re behind the scenes,” she says.
“People just don’t realise just how many homeless young people there are – for instance, all of those young people that are sleeping on someone’s sofa. I can understand why gangs are formed because some young people need that. They don’t have anything else; it’s like a family.”
Advice to other young people
Drawing on her own experience, Jess hopes to encourage other young people in similar situations to take advantage of all the things on offer.
“Get involved with as many things as you can,” she advises. “Use the day centres to get you off the streets. If you don’t, you’re just mixing with the wrong crowd. Use what services have to offer, you might not realise the benefit at the time, but you do later.”
Jess now has a family of her own and works for the NHS.