"For me, there hasn’t been much street homelessness - I’ve hardly ever had to sleep rough. But sofa surfing, living in squats or supported accommodation is still really hard. You don’t really know when you’re going to get made to leave and stuff."
Fiona came to Brighton for university, but was unable to return home after her studies didn't go to plan.
What brought you to Brighton in the first place?
Well, when I first left home, I came to Brighton for uni. I’d always kind of liked the sound of Brighton and then I found BIMM, the music uni, and thought ‘well I’ll go there.’ This is when I was 18. I did get somewhere to live at first but I very quickly lost it because I was quite unmanageable at the time. It was really expensive. It sounds crazy to say now, but having somewhere to live didn’t really feel like a priority for me at the time. I wasn’t paying my rent, so I just left where I was living and ending up being homeless while I was at uni. Most of the time I’d find somewhere to stay, like sofa surfing, staying in squats or backpackers’ hostels. But then, eventually I moved out of Brighton and went to London for a few years then came back to Brighton. Sorry I’ve started telling you my whole life story!
How did you first hear about Sanky?
I’d heard about Sanky while I was in Brighton, but I just didn’t go, I don’t know why. But then when I came back to Brighton, which was only earlier this year, I met someone who did come here and I came with them. They said it was a good place to come and they do lunch and activities and help you with housing and stuff. So then I came and just thought, ‘why didn’t I come here before?’
Do you know why you didn’t come before?
Yeah, I think maybe I didn’t want to go on my own or I didn’t know how, like, helpful it would be. Also, I just thought I could do things on my own and wasn’t very good at asking for help or accepting help. But I’m getting better at that now. So I first came in Springtime this year (2021) and very quickly got really involved because they do loads of stuff here like yoga, music and like all stuff that I’m interested in. When I came back to Brighton I went into supported accommodation at first, but then I got evicted from there...
Do you mind me asking why you got evicted from there?
Yeah it was for having my partner round because you’re not allowed to have people round. But she was also homeless so, erm, you know it was quite hard to just not let her round.
What do you think has been most difficult about being homeless?
For me there hasn’t been much street homelessness, I’ve hardly ever had to sleep rough. But sofa surfing, living in squats or supported accommodation is still really hard. You don’t really know when you’re going to get made to leave and stuff.
In those sorts of places do you always have a shared kitchen to cook in?
No, not always. I was in one of those Covid hotels where there was no kitchen. They gave us one meal a day, but, because I'm vegan they didn’t always have something for me so that meant having to spend money on takeaways and stuff.
Are you on universal credit and if so, how is that for you?
I am yeah. Ah it’s just ridiculous. It’s just gone down, so when I takeaway what I'm paying to live each month, I’m basically living on 170 a month, which is like 40 pounds a week.
What’s the most important thing you get from CTS?
Coming here to have lunch, which is usually the main meal of the day.
Are you looking for a job?
I have been thinking about it, because I’m finding it really hard to get by on the money I’m getting. But the idea of doing that really stresses me out. I was nearly going to start a job once, but then I worked out that I was better off on benefits, because if I had a job I’d have to pay rent and stuff which would use up a lot of my pay.
So, you’re in supported accommodation at the moment, are you happy with where you’re staying?
I think it’s one of the best places I’ve stayed in. I’m meant to be allowed to stay there for like 3 years, which is a lot longer than I’m used to staying anywhere. So that’s good. I’ve got my own space, there’s no communal area other than the kitchen so I don’t really see my housemates. We don’t really ever talk.
Would you say that your support network is mainly at CTS or do you have other friends outside the centre?
No, I’d say it’s mainly here. My accommodation is supposed to be supportive, but I never really hear from them. I’ve never even met my keyworker from my accommodation.
You said you’re a really busy person, what do you do when you’re not at CTS?
So, I’m in 4 bands. I would think about trying to get a job in music, when I do feel able to get a job. It would probably be in music or running. I run like 5 times and week, with a long run once a week which is usually at least half marathon length. I play football as well – that's twice a week.
If you were talking to a friend about what we do at CTS, how would you describe it?
It’s so helpful. Especially in the winter. If you’re on the street you can come here and have food, do laundry, have a shower and then just chill out. You can talk to the staff about housing. Really, I think they’ll just help you with whatever you need.