Tam has mixed emotions about her time as a young homeless person: “It was weird – I felt free, but I was also scared,” she recalled. “Luckily, I had friends I could count on and I never had to sleep rough.” Unlike many people facing homelessness, Tam was fortunate enough to have built up a solid network through football that she could lean on, and after a period of sofa-surfing, she sought help from Centrepoint in Manchester. They were able to support Tam, who went to live with her grandparents until she started university in the autumn.
But the lack of stability had a significant impact – Tam still didn’t have a place she could call home. “It affected me mentally; I just couldn’t open up to people. I was in college at the time, and I was struggling to come to terms with the fact I didn’t have a family like the ones other people at college were talking about,” she said. “It was hard, and was affecting my studies. But in the end, it made me who I am today.”
Plus, the support from Centrepoint facilitated Tam in a range of ways: “They helped me with my studies and kept me on the straight and narrow so I could get good grades and continue working as a sports referee, coach and lifeguard. But they also helped me realise that my sexuality doesn’t define me as a person – and it isn’t wrong to be LGBTQ+. That helped to build my confidence.”
In particular, Tam benefited from getting involved with the Homeless World Cup through Centrepoint. “It was amazing,” she enthused. “I felt like myself. I didn’t have to hide anything because we were all in a similar situation – all with experiences of homelessness. Even though I was playing for a club team, Centrepoint was an escape, and we could all share our stories. I made friends for life there.”
Today, Tam is 29 and has a degree in Sports and Exercise Science with Physiotherapy. She has also just finished a course to get her Close Protection License and works in security. She coaches sports and is a scout leader in her spare time. But she credits Centrepoint for helping her get to this point: “It made me the person I am today. Centrepoint cares about every single person that reaches out to them. They will help you in more ways than one – in more ways than you could imagine.”
And if you recognise yourself in Tam’s story, she offers this advice: “Never let your current situation define who you are. You can and you will make good of the situation – you can become anything you work for. And if you need help, don’t be afraid to reach out.”
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