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Helping young people get past the mental and physical effects of homelessness

01 March 2019

Being homeless takes its toll on a young person, putting them at risk of mental and physical health problems. When they start to move on from homelessness, being in good health has a huge impact on how successful they are at finding a home, a job and becoming independent.

Being homeless takes its toll on a young person, putting them at risk of mental and physical health problems. When they start to move on from homelessness, being in good health has a huge impact on how successful they are at finding a home, a job and becoming independent.

We’ve been working with Centrepoint, the UK’s leading youth homelessness charity, since 2017 and with your help, we’ve raised over £1 million so far to support their mission to end youth homelessness. Some of this money has been used by Centrepoint to give young people the support they need to look after their mental and physical health.

Specialist health services in Manchester

When Centrepoint started working in Manchester in 2017, they quickly realised that support for young people with mental health issues in the area was well below national targets, with only 59% of patients receiving access to mental health therapy within six weeks against a national target of 89.5%. Recognising this urgent need, Centrepoint directed funds raised through the partnership with The Co-operative Bank towards establishing an in-house mental health team for the city.

Thanks to the generous support of our customers and colleagues, over 100 young people in Manchester received 1-2-1 support with mental health and substance misuse issues in 2018. In addition, Centrepoint’s new mental health team delivered over 40 group sessions in Manchester to encourage young people to open up about their mental health and address issues in innovative ways, such as through graffiti art sessions.

“A massive thank you to all the customers and colleagues at The Co-operative Bank for helping to raise an incredible £1m for Centrepoint. Your support means that we are able to offer a fully comprehensive range of mental health services to some of Manchester’s most vulnerable young people.”

Sue Melton, Health Team Manager, Centrepoint Manchester

Health services help to break the cycle of youth homelessness

Long term good health means that homeless young people are able benefit from Centrepoint’s other programmes like education, jobs skills training and sport. Teams across Centrepoint work together to build health support into all of the workshops and projects open to young people. Their health team services include:

  • Psychotherapy - Long-term talking therapy to help young people cope emotionally with the difficulties in their lives.
  • Substance use - Advice and support to help young people manage and reduce their substance use.
  • Mental health advice - Crisis support and advocacy for young people experiencing mental health problems.
  • Nutrition and dietetics - Educating young people about diet and nutrition – helping them to take better care of themselves and to manage health conditions.
  • Healthy relationships - Support and advocacy for young people experiencing unsafe, unhealthy or abusive relationships.

Case study: How your support helped Zara rebuild her future

Zara’s childhood was exceptionally difficult. Removed from her family and friends and placed into social services accommodation around the age of 11, her parents were unable to provide emotional and physical care due to her estranged mum’s mental health struggles and father’s dependency on alcohol.

Zara was subjected to extreme bullying from other children growing up in care and built up barriers to cope with her distress and feelings of abandonment. She didn’t feel anyone cared about how she was feeling and started to self-harm and self-medicate to ease her pain. As a result, she drifted in and out of foster homes and would often go missing; sleeping rough to avoid her living environments. She started to use drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism, which further impacted on her safety while she was rough sleeping. Zara found herself caught in a cycle of abuse and self-neglect.

Thankfully, Zara found Centrepoint. She arrived after a night of rough sleeping and their housing teams were able to secure an emergency bed for her that night. The following day, Centrepoint had secured Zara a room in a female hostel where she could find some stability and start to turn her life around.

Zara was referred to Centrepoint’s health team in Manchester for specialist support. An initial assessment showed years of emotional and physical neglect, abuse and abandonment. Centrepoint’s Substance Use Practitioner offered a safe space for Zara to talk about her drug use alongside separate appointments with one of the mental health specialists. The team continue to provide weekly support sessions that give her an opportunity to speak about her feelings, fears and thoughts. 

Zara is able to concentrate on rebuilding her own future and has started to attend an educational course in the community. She has started to reduce her substance dependencies and is hoping to attend a recovery group when she feels ready for that next step.

Zara says that she feels more positive and although she still has a lot of work to do, she now feels able to talk about her hopes and dreams for the future – something she never thought she would be able to do before Centrepoint and the support from their health team in Manchester.

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