Ryan's Story: Wrap-Around Support
Ryan* became homeless in the middle of his GCSEs. He says he left home because at the time, he felt safer on the streets than at home. He spent three months street homeless and would often ride night buses to stay safe and warm particularly when the weather got colder. Ryan remembers feeling lost and having no idea who to turn to or how to access support. After a few months, Ryan’s school began to pick up on changes to his behaviour and were informed that he was missing from his scheduled CAMHs appointment and social services were alerted. It was then that he was eventually referred to Centrepoint.
Although Ryan knew it was dangerous on the streets, he also found it liberating.
‘It was scary, but at the same time quite exciting. The reason being was that at the time, I felt being on the streets was a safer environment than being in my own household. I was in a very survivalist mind-set and I saw quite a few traumatic things whilst on the streets. It wasn’t the greatest place to be, but it was one of my greatest life lessons.’
He says that although sofa surfing was safer than being on streets, he found it even more difficult.
‘I found sofa surfing quite uncomfortable because you feel invasive in their personal life. I didn’t want to overstay my welcome and rely on other people too much. I never wanted to stay more than two weeks at a friend’s house and because of that the streets were a better option for me.’
But living in this way takes its toll mentally, physically and emotionally.
‘I’d be walking and walking and have to be continuously alert. I found dark places to sleep and I made sure I knew my surroundings. I often slept on night buses. I began to know the routes quite well and would go from one bus station to another. When I look back, I know I was in survival mode; fight or flight. I’m very grateful that I had a few people to help me out on that journey – even bus drivers were accommodating.’
Often Ryan would be hungry - food and money were scarce, but he would make sure he ate at school.
‘I was able to claim free school meals so I knew that I’d be able to have one good meal a day. The rest of the time, I just survived on water.’
However, throughout all these challenges, remarkably, Ryan was still attending school.
"Somehow, unbelievably, I maintained my attendance. My parents placed a high value on educational achievement so that was ingrained in me which is why I still made sure I went to school whilst homeless. I managed to get 7 Bs and 3 As in my GCSEs. It’s amazing how I was able to push through," he remarks.
Support from his key worker
When Ryan moved into the Centrepoint hostel, he was assigned a Key Worker. A vital relationship in supporting a young person into independent living.
"My key worker, was outstanding. Even after I left and the six months of floating support was up, I always knew I could ask him for help if I had a question or an issue with anything, That really decreased my anxiety moving on. When I first moved on, I received a lot of spontaneous and contradictory bills. I just asked him about it and he helped me sort it out and I learnt how to deal with it myself in future.”
Support from the Health Team
When Ryan first arrived at Centrepoint, he struggled with eating properly was referred to the dietetics team.
“I had a dietician who was amazing. She taught me many lessons about how my diet is essential to my health. I didn’t really eat when I first arrived. I only ate take away. I didn’t like how people left the kitchen and I was shy and kept myself to myself.
She taught me about nutrition and how to cook simple meals and. I ended up being fascinated about food whereas before I came to Centrepoint, I was completely disinterested.
“I realised that I needed to start eating again because if I didn’t, I realised it would dramatically affect my mental and physical health. I realised that everything I was doing was self-neglectful. I think I’ve always had a bit of an eating disorder since I was a child and being at Centrepoint gave me a chance to confront that and overcome it.”
“I also began to attend the Wednesday Socials at Dean St and regularly helped out with the cooking. Working with the hospitality training chef was such a great experience for me and I learnt so much from him: different cutting skills, hygiene and methods etc. It’s encouraged me to cook more at home. I was initially quite fearful of cooking, but he brought me out of my comfort zone and I feel much happier cooking.
The wrap-around support that Centrepoint provides meant that Ryan was also offered regular therapy sessions with one of Centrepoint’s dedicated psychotherapists. Ryan says that he found these life-changing.
“The sessions with my psychotherapist helped me so much. What he does is absolute magic. He gave me a great understanding of myself. I had to look into my past to understand where the trauma and patterns came from. Through some magical miracle, I started being able to find the answers. He was so supportive to me on that journey,” he enthuses.
Support from Centrepoint Works
After Ryan finished college where he was studying animal welfare, Centrepoint helped him to find a job. He completed the workwise modules with the learning team as well as lots of interview workshops.
Ryan was also a beneficiary of the Centrepoint bursary that supports young people in education, employment and training.
“The bursary helped me purchase books and uniform that I needed for a work placement working with animals which was absolutely fantastic.”
“That opportunity led to other opportunities: I worked at several different farms and I volunteered at a zoo which was such a great experience. I wish I could still volunteer there but due to the pandemic, that’s not possible so I looked for other opportunities to volunteer and travel and that’s what has led me here to Tenerife.
Ryan travelled to the Canary Islands to volunteer for a charity protecting whales and dolphins in the area. He says it was a fantastic experience, but he got stranded there after the third lockdown in December.
He is now back in the UK and working for a Dog Day Centre.
Ryan says that his long-term goal is to set up his own business and continue to travel and make the most of life. “It’s so important to spread love and positivity. Make every moment last and count.”
He is currently volunteering with the Centrepoint Policy team on a piece of research on Universal Credit which he has been really enjoying and has helped him develop new skills.
The relationship with his parents is also in a much better place than it was four years ago.
“I had to go through certain events to understand them and myself. I still love them to bits, but they realise I’m on my own journey now,” he reflects.
We know that Ryan still struggles at times, but we are glad that we have supported him in his journey into independence. We find him immensely inspiring and wish him all the best on his life’s journey. We are sure it will be full of adventures.