Homeless girl crowned powerlifting world championships
Homeless Helpline: ‘Centrepoint helped me go from sofa-surfing to a world powerlifting champion’
At 18, Monique Newton was crowned powerlifting world champion.
She would go on to win the title three more times, breaking 45 British and European records.
But only a few months before that first victory, at the 2010 championships in Finland, Monique was in hospital – homeless and battling depression, she had tried to kill herself.
Without the help of Centrepoint, her story could have been very different.
Young homeless: Three-time powerlifting world champion Monique Newton
Monique grew up in west London with her father, a civil servant, her mother, a teaching assistant, and her sister.
At the age of three she was diagnosed with ganglia neuroblastoma, a form of cancer, and her parents were told she had only two years to live.
She underwent surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy and, against all the odds, survived.
But by the age of 10 she had developed depression.
Monique: She turned to sport to help focus her mind
Family relations were always tense, and in Monique’s teens the rows grew more serious. When she was 15, her parents drew the line.
“We always had our arguments and our ups and downs,” she says. “That’s what led to me being kicked out.”
Monique finds it difficult to talk about what happened next and she still breaks down when she remembers the details.
“I’m sorry,” she says, trying to smile. “I don’t know why I keep crying.”
She began sofa-surfing, staying with cousins and friends and, eventually, with a much older boyfriend.
She went to college and worked part-time at the Early Learning Centre in Westfield, but she was grappling constantly with her mental health issues and the insecurity of having nowhere to call home.
After 10 months of homelessness, Monique had a breakdown. “I tried to kill myself,” she says.
She spent the next seven months in hospital, battling depression and slowly putting herself back together.
That’s where Centrepoint came in. She was referred to the charity, which put her up in a hostel in west London and gave her a stable base.
Monique went back to college, studying engineering and plumbing, and returned to her job.
Then she went looking for a sport that would focus her mind as well as train her body — and discovered powerlifting.
She started in January 2010, and, despite weighing only 45kg, could quickly lift 60kg.
Her training progressed from there, and at her peak she could lift three times her own weight.
Powerlifter: Monique with her medals.
By November, with the help of a Centrepoint grant, she was at the world championships in Finland.
Now 24, Monique no longer competes — as her mental health improved she put on weight and left the 48kg category that she had dominated.
Happy and successful, she is a peer support worker at the St Charles Mental Health Unit and runs her own charity, The Smile Brigade, which provides activities for vulnerable people.
She backs our Christmas Appeal to raise money for Centrepoint’s new national helpline, which will give advice and support to young homeless people.
“It would be good to have all the information in one place so you know what options are available,” she says.
“You don’t see yourself as being homeless, so you don’t know who to go to. There’s nothing out there where you can get help or advice.
“When you’re homeless you’re isolated, not just physically but mentally. Knowing you’re not wanted at home, your confidence goes.”