AT the age of just 15 Carol Dawson was left to fend for herself after leaving home.
Miss Dawson struggled to make ends meet and was left homeless living on the streets.
But now at the age of 51, the mother-of-two helps teenagers in a similar situation by taking them into her home and offering them the stability and security they need to stand on their own to feet.
Miss Dawson said: “When I was 15-and-a-half I left home and I struggled on my own at that age so I wanted to put something back into society.
“Back then there was no support and I got involved in the project because I struggled so much when I was younger. It still to this day has an affect on my life and I don’t want that to happen to anyone else.”
Miss Dawson has been a community host for the Step-In Project for two years and has already helped one teenager get a college place, his own home and a job.
Mason Johnston, of Hemsworth, contacted the project after a family breakdown left him homeless.
But Miss Dawson gave him a home for about 17 weeks.
Miss Dawson said: “Mason was homeless and pennyless and we bonded straight away.
“He is so together for a young person. He has come on leaps and bounds.”
Mr Johnston, 18, is now a professional cookery apprentice at Nostell Priory and has his own flat in Hemsworth.
He said: “Carol just let me do my own thing. I was always bound by rules but she really understood me.
“She gave me stability, a roof and a bed and the main thing for me was finding work because I dropped out of my A levels.
“I am very grateful to her for helping me and she is more like a friend.
“It was never like a child and parent relationship. I think we have got a friendship for life.”
Miss Dawson, who is also a spiritualist medium and runs the Distant Memories shop, on Station Road, said that parents often misunderstand teenagers.
She added: “It’s not the sternness that they need. These young people who come to me are under so much pressure and stress from life in general so what I do is come down to their level and we will have a chat and I build their trust up.
“I try to follow what they want to do to the best of my ability and we have meetings with their parents if they want to.”
The Step-In Project, based at West Wakefield Methodist Church, on Thornes Road, Wakefield, is run by YMCA White Rose and helps prevent homelessness among young people.
For more information call 01924 374634 or visit www.ymcawhiterose.org.uk