Former homeless teen faces challenge to a better life
LESS than a year ago Jacob Collett survived on his wits because he was sleeping rough in Cheltenham.
While there were times when he was able to sleep on a friend's sofa, on other nights he set up his small tent on Leckhampton Common or in Montpellier by the skate park.
The only thing he had to sleep on was a roll of carpet he had found in a dump.
"I used to go out at 3am and find money on the floor that had been dropped by people on a night out," he said.
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"I once found a scratch card and won £50.
"A guy from the Texaco garage also used to give me biscuits and I would sometimes find McDonalds monopoly vouchers for free burgers."
His 19th birthday on October 1 was spent on his own in his tent.
"I didn't want to be known as a homeless person so I used to hide and find somewhere to sleep," he added.
"Once I hid my tent behind a bush, but then the council took it away. I used to have to explain to the people at Pittville Pools why I kept using their shower."
Now, three years after becoming homeless because of family difficulties, 19-year-old Jacob is turning his life around.
In October last year he was given supported accommodation at charity County Community Project's Bramah House.
The charity's Foyer project looks after vulnerable youngsters and gave him a roof over his head.
He said: "I am grateful for the experience on the streets.
"It was tough, but it has changed my life and taught me to be independent. I had no other choice."
It was a chance meeting with a girl called Hannah which led him to CCP.
She had been a resident with the charity.
Just to have a room with a bed and a shower, something most 19-year-olds take for granted, made a huge difference to Jacob.
And, in reward for overcoming the problems, Jacob has been given a chance to take part in a life-changing challenge.
Just a few days later, he was picked to take part in an Outward Bound week in Aberdovey, Wales.
It led to an invitation by Gloucestershire Constabulary to act as a mentor to other youngsters on another week.
Now he has been nominated by Gloucestershire Outward Bound Association for one of their most challenging expeditions.
His is the first nomination for three years and involves a three-week trek through the Scottish Highlands.
Alan Hoar, from the Outward Bound Association, said: "The ultimate adventure course will be a life-changing experience for Jacob.
"It is physically challenging, but for many people it is the mental challenge which is greater."