Sheldon aged 26
Chef’s Hat And Spoon
I’m from London originally. For me, it was not a normal teenage upbringing. I haven’t seen my mum for 13 years. She went home to Montserrat when I was 12. I wasn’t in care. I found a way to look after myself. My dad had a difficult time with the drinking. He beat my brother to a pulp. He didn’t remember and said to my brother “What happened to you?” That was just alcohol.
One day I had a fight with my dad and I went out. I had nowhere to go. I was walking the streets of the West End for weeks on end. It’s hard to speak about it. So many terrible things. A tutor at college in Walthamstow put me up. I got into catering, I got level 2 catering and did contract catering. At 16 I was working, going to college. Then I went to prison for a year and a half. When I came out I had nothing. I was on the streets of Slough for 4 months. But with the help of the support workers I came to the YMCA – without them I would be nowhere. The people here are so good. I try to help other young people here eat well.
I remember one thing that made me want to help people. I was 16, on the bench in the West End, sitting by myself. One lady, I don’t know her or where she was from, came out of nowhere and said do you want any help? I said I had nowhere to go, nowhere to live. Basically she booked me into a hotel, and put £300 in my pocket. I was just a bit surprised. Most people in London don’t see people suffering. I can still picture her face. She gave me the focus and that £300 helped me to get to college. I’m doing the catering now. I’ve got a job for a charity cooking for 150 people coming up in two weeks time.