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As a child, James lived with his parents and seven siblings in a London council house. His mother was a heavy drinker and drug user and abused her son regularly. "Once she smashed my head against the toilet seat and split it open" he recalls. "She didn't know what she was doing".
James tried to get away from the abuse by moving in with his sister. But her sister's boyfriend turned against him too, and James was subjected to unending verbal abuse. Finally he was kicked out of his sister's home at the age of 13.
James was homeless for the first time, and bounced from hostel to hostel throughout the rest of his teenage years. He was alone and demoralised, reduced to begging for change to afford clothes and food. Soon he dropped out of school too. "I'd lost my trust in people and life" he recalls.
When he turned 18, it became more difficult to get a place to sleep in hostels. For the first time in his life, he had to sleep rough. "If I had a sleeping bag I slept in doorways, otherwise I just had to find a blanket and lie someplace. I got chest infections, colds and chronic diarrhoea" he says. He would go without food and was robbed and attacked often.
James found out about Centrepoint when another hostel referred him here. Staff quickly recognised that he was experiencing mental health issues and was showing signs of depression, anxiety and schizophrenia. But with careful guidance, James has begun to learn how to manage his conditions.
James is much happier now, making good progress in his key worker sessions and making friends for the first time. He has taken up sport - even starring in Centrepoint's football league - and dreams of having a steady job and place of his own.