My first Christmas homeless27 December 2013 | by Carlisle Baker-Jackson
As part of our series of articles by people for whom this Christmas will be notably different, a graduate who has ended up homeless takes stock.
This Christmas for me is going to be different from others because even though I have been away from home before, this is the first year I'll have been homeless for Christmas.
I’m more aware of the festive season this year, and in particular the Nativity story (I am Catholic) because it focuses strongly on the theme of family. I will try to see my family, especially as this time of year is when you reflect on the good and bad of the past year and look forward to a new year and new beginnings.
I ended up at the Cardinal Hume Centre after having to leave home. Staying at home during the university holidays was manageable but graduating last year and having to live at home permanently wasn’t. I graduated in Biomedical Sciences at the University of Hertfordshire last year and gained my NCTJ Diploma in Newspaper Journalism at the beginning of the summer. But home had become too small for the number of people living there and tensions arose that were non-existent before. I left home abruptly and not in a manner I’d have liked, but I don’t bear any ill feeling towards my family and we talk regularly.
I crashed around friends’ houses for a while but having no job to support myself at the time didn’t make things easy. My cousin told me about a local charity that helps young homeless and they referred me to the Cardinal Hume Centre, who offered me a place there from the following week. The Centre offers employment advice, housing advice, a crèche for Westminster residents on low income and a range of other support for residents and non-residents, such as an IT club or classes for people who have English as a Second Language (ESOL). There’s even a doctor’s surgery on site. I am staying at the hostel for six months, however this can be extended to a year.
If I wasn’t here at the Cardinal Hume Centre I’m not sure where I would be and just the thought of that worries me.
I have managed to find part-time employment as a seasonal retail assistant but I want to get into journalism. I don’t have any immediate plans to return to university for further study, especially as I haven’t found permanent employment/housing that would enable me to do a Masters in journalism, which is what I’d really like to do.
My hopes for this Christmas and beyond are that my part-time role would be made permanent and that I get a job that involves writing, preferably in journalism, or in other industries such as marketing or communications. But my fears are not being able to keep this job permanently after the Christmas season ends, and not being able to find employment in journalism. I have thought about what will happen when my time at Cardinal Hume comes to an end and I am optimistic by the time I have left, they will have provided me with the support and help to enable me to move onwards confidently and with purpose. My greatest hope for next year however is this: that this is the first and last Christmas I spend homeless.
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