Cartrain was helped by the charity who placed him in a hostel after he ended up sleeping rough in December 2014.
The 24-year-old is now auctioning one of his most famous works – inspired and endorsed by Turner Prize-winning artists Gilbert and George – to help raise funds for Centrepoint’s new Young and Homeless helpline.
It is among lots in our online auction launching on Tuesday 13 December which include luxury holidays, top sporting days out and the chance to train with an Olympic cycling champion.
The street artist, who remains anonymous, said: “Centrepoint saved me when I was in a really bad place. Sleeping rough is really horrible. It’s not something I think anyone should have to do.”
Cartrain, from Leytonstone in east London, rose to prominence in 2008 when he was involved in a high-profile copyright row with Hirst, said to be the world’s richest living artist.
The Design and Artists Copyright Society (DACS) took action on Hirst’s behalf after the then 16-year-old Cartrain created works containing images of Hirst’s £50m diamond skull sculpture For the Love of God.
The teenager handed over the artworks to DACS and forfeited the £200 he had made.
He was arrested by the Metropolitan Police seven months later when in revenge he walked into Tate Britain and removed a pack of rare Faber Castell pencils from Hirst’s £10m installation, Pharmacy.
Cartrain put up “Wanted” posters around London warning the pencils would be “sharpened” unless his own artworks depicting Hirst’s skull were returned.
He faced charges of a £500,000 art theft but in the end no further action was taken.
He told The Independent: “It’s fair to say we are still not the best of friends.”
Cartrain needed help from Centrepoint when he and his girlfriend lost their home shortly before Christmas 2014.
He said they were kicked out of their rented flat in near London’s Victoria station when they complained about the property to the landlord.
The landlord kept their £2,000 deposit, leaving them penniless, and as the artist had no commissions or regular income, they could not secure a new home.
They ended up “sofa-surfing” staying with friends – or spending nights in the 24-hour café in St Thomas’s Hospital.
When they were asked to leave by the hospital, they would wander the streets at night or travel until dawn on night buses to stay safe.
It was the second time Cartrain had been homeless, after a family breakdown made it impossible to stay at his family home in east London and left him living in squats aged 17.
The causes of homelessness
The causes of homelessness
1/7 Family Breakdown
Relationship breakdown, usually between young people and their parents or step-parents, is a major cause of youth homelessness. Around six in ten young people who come to Centrepoint say they had to leave home because of arguments, relationship breakdown or being told to leave. Many have experienced long-term problems at home, often involving violence, leaving them without the family support networks that most of us take for granted
2/7 Complex needs
Young people who come to Centrepoint face a range of different and complex problems. More than a third have a mental health issue, such as depression and anxiety, another third need to tackle issues with substance misuse. A similar proportion also need to improve their physical health. These problems often overlap, making it more difficult for young people to access help and increasing the chances of them becoming homeless
Young people's chances of having to leave home are higher in areas of high deprivation and poor prospects for employment and education. Many of those who experience long spells of poverty can get into problem debt, which makes it harder for them to access housing
4/7 Gang Crime
Homeless young people are often affected by gang-related problems. In some cases, it becomes too dangerous to stay in their local area meaning they can end up homeless. One in six young people at Centrepoint have been involved in or affected by gang crime
5/7 Exclusion From School
Not being in education can make it much more difficult for young people to access help with problems at home or health problems. Missing out on formal education can also make it more difficult for them to move into work
6/7 Leaving Care
Almost a quarter of young people at Centrepoint have been in care. They often have little choice but to deal with the challenges and responsibilities of living independently at a young age. Traumas faced in their early lives make care leavers some of the most vulnerable young people in our communities, with higher chances of poor outcomes in education, employment and housing. Their additional needs mean they require a higher level of support to maintain their accommodation
Around 13 per cent of young people at Centrepoint are refugees or have leave to remain, meaning it isn't safe to return home. This includes young people who come to the UK as unaccompanied minors, fleeing violence or persecution in their own country. After being granted asylum, young people sometimes find themselves with nowhere to go and can end up homeless
He said: “It’s a scary experience, when you realise you have absolutely nowhere to stay. You really need help.”
The artist got in touch with Centrepoint after his GP, who was helping him with anxiety and insomnia from the stress of sleeping rough, referred him to the charity.
He spent 18 months living in a hostel in Westminster before the charity helped him move on to a studio flat.
During that period his art career began to take off. He is currently exhibiting prints at Mayfair gallery Imitate Modern.
The artwork he is donating to the auction is one of a series of collages he created in 2012 featuring images of Gilbert and George. It has been valued at between £2,000 and £3,000.
The images on the artwork were later reproduced by the contemporary art duo in their “Double Doors” work exhibited at White Cube Gallery in Hoxton, east London, in 2014.
The Independent has already raised more than £1m through our Young and Homeless Helpline appeal.
We are raising funds for Centrepoint to launch a Freephone number and online service to ensure the thousands of young people facing or experiencing homelessness get the support they need.
Cartrain said: “I wasn’t aware of the services out there. I was told I wasn’t priority need by the council and I ended up on the street. If I could have turned to the helpline I could have got help sooner.”