A helping hand for young homeless people

Volunteer Alison (right) with Clocktower service-users, young people who are either homeless or in supported accommodation in Brighton & Hove.
Volunteer Alison (right) with Clocktower service-users, young people who are either homeless or in supported accommodation in Brighton & Hove.

We were shocked to hear last week that rough-sleeping in Brighton and Hove leapt 84% between 2015 and 2016, making it the local authority with the second highest levels of rough sleeping the country, after Westminster.

The average monthly rent for a room in the city stands at £831 – way beyond the reach of many. Youth homelessness is a particular issue and, if left unsupported, people who experience homelessness at a young age are at great risk of becoming homeless and developing complex problems in later life. The Clocktower Sanctuary is the only day centre for homeless 16-25 year-olds in the city and it provides a safety net for these vulnerable young people. Sussex Community Foundation has been supporting the charity since 2008 with 14 grants, totalling over £166,000. One of those – from our Cullum Family Fund for £4,000 - was to support the charity’s Move On project.

“The Move On support project offers young people the opportunity to develop skills, progress towards their goals and build networks of support through which they can achieve employment and/or sustain accommodation,” says Natalia Borg, Development Coordinator. “Due to the unstable nature of homeless young people’s lives and the complexity of their needs, this client group is notoriously difficult to engage. By developing our services, young people are now more supported along each step towards independent living and employment. Essentially, we are working with young people in a more meaningful and deeper way because of the grant.” The funding helped The Sanctuary to take an individual on a journey of engagement from initial activities at the day centre, such as yoga, music and cookery classes, through accredited life skills qualifications including CV writing and job interview skills, to targeted one-to-one support to achieve training, education and employment.

One person to benefit was James, now 26. After having to sleep on the streets in his teens following a family breakdown, The Sanctuary helped James secure supported accommodation. Despite being motivated to work, he struggled to maintain voluntary positions. “I felt I couldn’t tell the manager about what was going on in my head. I would get really anxious and stop turning up.” Recognising his potential, The Sanctuary offered James one day a week work experience at the day centre, supported by his volunteer mentor, Kirstie. “Kirstie and I get on really well. She has helped me with so much and built up my confidence. After being homeless, I really want to have a career helping people with housing. I know how horrible it is being homeless. Kirstie has helped me deal better with my anxiety and the importance of not being late. As a direct result of my volunteering at The Sanctuary, I’ve just been accepted on an internship at Brighton Housing Trust – I’m so excited and can’t wait to start!”

The next deadline for charities and community groups to apply to Sussex Community Foundation is Friday 5th May, 5pm. For information, visit www.sussexgiving.org.uk/apply