For years Kasim experienced difficulties at school. Suffering badly with anxiety, he felt constantly stressed and was always behind in his work.
“I felt I couldn’t be in that environment – there were too many people. I kept trying and thinking, I’ll manage it, but I just couldn’t. They didn’t have the resources to support me. I just gave up and thought I can’t do this anymore.”
A downward spiral
Kasim started drinking as a way to block it all out and this began to cause tensions with his mum.
“I was drunk a lot and my mum started locking me out the house and not answering the door. I smoked a bit as well and she just didn’t like that. When she locked me out, I might just sleep on the bench outside on our estate and wait until I could go back in again in the morning,” he recalls.
Out on his own
The relationship with his mum continued to deteriorate and eventually Kasim ended up rough sleeping. When he could, he stayed with friends, but otherwise he would hang around in McDonalds, ride on night buses or sleep on hospital benches.
“I didn’t know what I was doing with myself, I was lost. I was drinking a lot, smoking a lot and taking drugs. I was taking benzos because I’d been told that those would help with my anxiety; I was really depressed and stressed about everything,” he remembers.
“One time I remember I slept outside in Trafalgar Square at a bus stop. When I slept on buses, the bus driver would wake me at the end of the line and then I’d sleep at the bus stop. At first I felt scared, but after a while I started to feel braver and I felt more confident to do it. There were still times that I felt scared. There was one time that a guy came up to me and started asking me questions; he was really high, you could tell he was really high And he started touching my stuff and I got really scared then.”
For around six months, Kasim was moving between friend’s houses and the streets. In order to survive, he would steal food. “I felt really brave, I didn’t care too much what would happen,” he says.
A turn for the better
Things were reaching breaking point, but just at the right time, Kasim met someone who told him about a place called New Horizons where they help out young people on the streets. He suggested Kasim go with him and have breakfast there. There, a member of staff made Kasim an appointment and after that he was referred to Centrepoint.
“When I came here I felt relieved. I felt it was too good to be true. I felt shocked that there was even a place like this. Even when I was staying with my mum, I never had this many people around me that care about what was going on and what I was doing.”
At Centrepoint, Kasim was able to speak to a drug councillor who supported him in dealing with his substance use. His keyworker also helped him talk through some of the issues he was dealing with. “They really helped talk me through things and it really helped me,” he says.
Kasim has also benefited from the variety of courses at Centrepoint’s training centre in Dean St. “The guys there are just amazing; they help talk you through what you wanna do with your life and where you want to get to. It feels good to talk to people who understand. Whenever you feel low, there is someone to speak to.”
“I’m into film and music. At Dean St there was a filmmaking course. They brought some guys in that taught you how to make a film on your phone using an app. There was also an Art Depo course which was really good because we had to create an event. It was a great learning process. We went to The Roundhouse and we’ve gone to plays and stuff and it’s just been brilliant; really inspiring, really cool.”
Because Kasim struggles with time-keeping and planning, Kasim’s keyworkers have been able to support him in staying on track with his appointments and benefits. “It’s so good to have someone there reminding you and helping you. Once someone tells you a few times, you are able to do it yourself and become more independent,” he says.
“Jo-Ann, my keyworker has really helped me at times where I’ve felt so low and felt like I can’t do stuff and she’s been there for me.”
Centrepoint’s bursary scheme has also been able to provide Kasim with opportunities which have helped build his confidence. “I wanted to do a film course at City Academy. They charged a fee though. I spoke to my keyworker and she helped me apply for the Centrepoint bursary so I could do the course. It was so good. I don’t think I would have ever got to use equipment like that otherwise. There was lighting equipment and boom mics. It was so cool and the tutors were really good too.”
“I’ve also been going somewhere where I can do music and film – it’s sort of like a youth centre that the staff at Dean St helped me get involved in. he told me to go there and it’s just been brilliant, fantastic. I’ve learnt so much going there.”
Kasim still struggles with his anxiety and recently took a break from college, but he’s looking to move on from Centrepoint soon. In the future, he hopes to go back to college and eventually become a filmmaker.