James’s Story

By age 17, James* had nowhere to live. As a child he had been subjected to severe neglect, as well as emotional and physical abuse. While the Centre hostel provided an escape from homelessness, James was buckling under the weight of what had happened to him.

James’s social anxiety intensified with the pandemic, and he retreated into his room, avoiding contact and taking less and less care of himself.

Sadly, this is a behaviour our hostel workers recognise, particularly among residents who have never had a parent or a caregiver who could meet their basic needs, or teach them when to shower or how to cook or make their bed. It can be easy to forget that these are things we have to learn.

At the Centre it’s an important part of our job to provide the welcoming environment in which people can learn or relearn these basic life skills. For James, we started by building trust, encouraging him out of his room for weekly meetings, helping him to recognise those skills he did have and together identifying short-term goals to improve his situation and well-being.

Seeing James clean his room, do his own shopping and learn to cook a shepherd’s pie might sound small achievements to some but these were huge steps for him. Gradually, from those cooking sessions, he started opening up about his family and what had happened to him. He’d been carrying so much alone, but sharing the burden and getting support was a catalyst to healing the invisible scars.

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*James’s name has been changed to protect his identity.