In the 1980s, Steve came to Centrepoint after becoming homeless. He travelled to London in the hope of finding work.
“I got chucked out of my family home at the age of 18. I come from quite a comfortable middle-class background but not everything was okay.”
When Steve came to London, he got a job in a clothes shop, staying with a friend.
“I slept on his sofa for a couple of months. The rent for this horrible bedsit was £38 a week back in 1985, which was a lot of money then.
“My friend moved out so I had no choice but to take on the full licence. I didn’t have very much money, I often didn’t eat,” he recalls.
When he ran into serious trouble, he came to Centrepoint – who gave him emergency accommodation for 3 weeks.
“I went back to the Council and told them that I had no money and nowhere to live. I had to spend one night on the streets just walking around and then the next day they offered me temporary accommodation in a young person’s homeless unit in Ealing.”
After a couple of months of staying there, Steve received a letter from Centrepoint offering him a studio flat in Kennington for two-years. “I think they took me in to protect my job as well. I was working at a men’s clothing store at the time. When my tenancy with Centrepoint came to an end, they helped me to secure a council flat in Westminster at the age of 22.”
Steve vividly remembers the time when he was a young man with nowhere to live, unable to go home.
“Without Centrepoint’s support, I don’t know where I’d be. I might not be alive. I was able to get good quality, low-cost housing from Centrepoint. I tried to get accommodation myself, but as a 19-year-old, it’s very hard with no deposit and a low income to get even a small room in a house share. So without Centrepoint, I would have been on the streets and what would have happened to me then, I don’t know.”
“It made me feel very scared. I wasn’t in touch with my parents; I had no friends in London so I was quite alone. On the streets you’re susceptible to all sorts of people, violence, drugs, alcohol abuse that sort of thing,” Steve recalls.
Giving something back
Steve now works in housing and reconnected with Centrepoint recently as a supporter. In his job as a housing benefits officer he sometimes processes current Centrepoint residents’ rent.
“I didn’t do anything with Centrepoint for years, then about a year and a half ago I saw an advertisement in a newspaper. The person they were describing had the same name as me and that immediately drew me to it,” he says.
30 years later, Steve sponsors a room for homeless young people.
“I feel a big debt of gratitude towards Centrepoint because they helped me when I was in a really bad way. I’m happy to give a donation every month now I’m working and housed.”
Working in housing
For Steve, his own experience of housing difficulties has enabled him to do his job better. “I’m a lot more compassionate; I understand how hard it is to find good quality, low-cost housing. That’s something I come across all the time – people complaining about their landlord, about the condition of their flat, the cost of the rent,” he says.