In many cases, homelessness and drug addiction go hand in hand; this is what leads to the common misconception that all homeless people are abusing drugs and are therefore considered ‘bad people’. This is unfair, as many homeless people do not abuse drugs at all, but those who do are suffering from an illness and should be treated as such. Becoming homeless at a young age can lead to drug abuse as this is seen as a coping mechanism for many. However, once these individuals find accommodation, they will usually go on to kick their addiction for good. An example of this is Matt Carlisle, who lived on the streets from the age of sixteen; once he found accommodation and a career, though, he has gone on to become a senior manager for a charity that assists young people in the same position that he was in.
Forty-nine-year-old Matt Carlisle is one man who knows just how challenging life can be when you are homeless and suffering from alcohol or drug addiction. In 1982, at the age of just sixteen, he was forced to leave his home in Manchester where his parents both battled alcoholism. He has admitted that he did not help the situation by treating life ‘like a game’. He moved to Woolwich to live with relatives, but after just a few weeks he was kicked out and forced to sleep rough on the streets over the next eighteen months; he would live in squats and beg on the streets as he combatted his severe drug and alcohol addiction.
Matt is now a senior manager at Centrepoint, which is a charity for the homeless. He said, “I was absolutely desperate, thinking about ending it. I thought about taking pills and hoping I wouldn’t wake up. It was a horrible place to be. It’s coming from that place that makes me realise how important the work we do for these young people is and how much support they need.”
Just before his eighteenth birthday, Matt was referred to a shelter for the homeless in Lewisham – he explained that at the time, there was less pressure on housing and that if he was in the same position today, he might not be as lucky as he was back then.
The hostel provided the shelter and hope he needed to get back on his feet, and he soon found himself accepted into an apprenticeship programme and ended up returning as a volunteer when he was taken on by Centrepoint. Matt has been employed by the charity ever since, and over the past fourteen years, he has supported countless young people as they go through the same experiences as he did. Centrepoint’s patron Price William recently awarded Matt with the Contribution to Society Award at Kensington Place, and he could not have been more thrilled.
“I have a lot of empathy and a lot of time for people who other people might write off. I have never met bad kids. I’ve worked with kids who have been murderers, gang members, been shot or have shot people, those who are violent, aggressive. But if you look in the background it has all come from where they come from; they are carrying some emotional bricks from a time that has brought them out that way. As soon as you start giving them better opportunities, they turn it around.”
Matt added, “No one wants to be this aggressive, horrible person; it’s just a matter of giving them the tools to sort out whatever issues there are. The emotional side of it is massive. It’s not just about housing or a job; if you are carrying some memories which have really scarred you, then you have got to delve into that to put it back together. I don’t tell the young people where I have come from unless I need to, but sometimes when they are struggling, it is good to be able to say, ‘I’ve been where you are and look where I am now’.”
Supporting people until they eventually get a property of their own is the primary goal of Centrepoint. As Matt is a regional manager for west and central London, he ensures that hundreds of young people living in Lewisham find both short- and long-term accommodation. He ensures that they are given both physical and mental health assessments, along with support and makes sure they are receiving the required training to live independently and go on to find a career. Matt went on to say, “The helpline can be as big as Childline — it’s going to be massive, a lifeline for thousands of young people. People who ring Childline know what they are going to get at the other end of the line, someone who is supportive, someone who can give them good advice, that’s something we want to replicate around youth homelessness. At the moment, the information is so poor at the point of contact. Someone who has just become homeless can queue up for six hours to get a list of outdated numbers and be sent back on the street. How demoralising is that?
“These are people at risk of sexual abuse, drugs, self-harming. It’s vital we help them. They are often homeless through no fault of their own, just that they have been unlucky in life. Nowadays being homeless isn’t a big enough issue in itself to get housed – how sad is that? – but we need to make sure they get the best possible support and advice to help them. I think it will uncover maybe 50,000 homeless young people we didn’t even know about because they’ve never been picked up by the statistics before,” he added.
If you are in the same position as many of these youngsters and need a helping hand with your drug addiction, contact us here at UKAT. We specialise in assisting those who are suffering from addiction and we will do everything we can to ensure that you overcome your addiction in a safe and comfortable environment. Contact us today for further information.
Source: Centrepoint manager who was once homeless speaks out about helping young people (The Evening Standard)
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