Lisa's Story: Homeless in the 1980s
When Lisa left care in the 1980s, she found herself all alone with nobody to provide support. After travelling around the country from squat to squat, she ended up in London’s Soho and found there were lots of organisations that were able to offer support and advice. This meant that she was quickly referred to Centrepoint’s night Shelter on Shaftsbury Avenue where she stayed the maximum stay of 14 nights. She then moved on to a longer stay hostel in South Kensington.
The night shelter
Lisa remembers the night shelter being an incredibly warm and welcoming place. “The volunteers were kind and helpful. It felt safe. My overriding memory was that of the food that greeted us when we arrived there at 8pm. We’d be queuing up outside desperately waiting for the gates to open so that we could get a good wholesome meal . It was delicious, nutritious, home cooked food. We knew that even if we hadn’t eaten all day (often we would spend our luncheon vouchers on cigarettes), we would get a nutritious warm meal in the evening.”
Danger on the streets
London in the 80s was a dangerous place to be young and homeless. Lisa recalls that what we might now refer to as child sexual exploitation was rife in the West End of London at that time; particularly for the boys.
“I remember it very vividly. Some young men would try to get into the night shelter or wait outside in order to recruit other young boys in the sex trade. Although I was vulnerable, I remember the boys being specifically targeted in Soho and felt they were almost more vulnerable.”
Changing the story
For Lisa, the organisations that were there to offer support to young people had a hugely positive impact on her life.
“Centrepoint was one of several charities which supported me during that period of moving from childhood to adulthood – a very difficult period of my life. Organisations such as Alone in London, Buttle UK and Centrepoint changed my trajectory. They were all so connected to the common purpose of supporting young people like me. Because of them, I was able to eventually get my own flat, go to university and become independent. I wrote a blog once entitled ‘How Many Charities Does It Take to Fix a Broken Child?’ In my case it was about seven.”
Lisa hopes that these organisations are still as connected as they were back then because it made a huge difference to her that they all worked together.
“It’s so important to be collaborative, work together. Don’t just focus on the practical. It’s so important to get all that practical stuff done, but if you are working with people that have experienced trauma – it is so important to incorporate that into practice. It’s vital. You’ve also got to see the adult that the child can become,” Lisa says.
To young people today going through similar experiences she would say, “Just remember that this is a moment in time. It will pass and it will get better. Be open to opportunities in front of you because you just don’t know where it might lead and what experiences it may give you and who you might meet.”
Today, Lisa provides accessible, scientifically grounded knowledge and information to people, organisations and agencies working with children and families around trauma, resilience and recovery.