Serena left home at the age of 17 after a difficult family life - a time she prefers not to talk about. Over the next five years she moved from one place to another living in hostels and shared houses, until moving into her own flat at the age of 22.
"There was a whole lot of things going on in my life at that time and I lost the flat" she recalls. "I sofa surfed for about six months but then went back into a hostel for women in west London. It took me a while to start talking to people but finally I thought I want to move on."
Whilst living at the hostel, she started doing a few courses at St Mungo's Wellbeing Centre in Earls Court. This gave Serena the motivation she needed and in July 2010 she became an apprentice project worker with St Mungo's. "I was so pleased when I found out. It was my first job in over 2 years."
Serena worked at the Wellbeing Centre running activities, and was a keyworker to several women there and also worked at St Mungo's hostel in Cromwell Road.
"It was very challenging, physically and emotionally but what I really enjoyed was seeing people taking those small steps on their journey. I'd done other jobs before but this was the first time I'd done a job that I really loved."
For Serena getting back to work after a two year break, the apprenticeship was the right way to do it "I wanted to take things one step at a time. I felt really supported."
Her apprenticeship role finished in the summer of 2011, but Serena continued to work at both projects as a locum worker whilst applying for other permanent roles. She was determined to forge a career helping other people. Her hard work and determination paid off and she got a project worker position at St Mungo's mental health project in Westbourne Park, which started last September.
"I love working here. It's challenging, but it fills me with pride. Making the residents happy and knowing that I am helping them is very rewarding. I have been through a lot in the past and have suffered with depression and anxiety myself so working here really helps raise my self esteem too."
Serena has kept herself busy outside of work too. She has become the social secretary for St Mungo's Women's Focus Group and in October, she took part in our spooky Halloween abseil down Reading's tallest building to raise money for St Mungo's.
"My life has changed so much. St Mungo's is a stand out organisation. I really believe in the way St Mungo's works and I would like to stay working for them for as long as possible. Before, for me, it used to be about having my own home, but I've realised it's not just about that, it's about equipping yourself with skills too."