“When I left my hometown again, I felt like I was back at square one, but CTS helped me realise I wasn’t.”
Harry first started visiting the Clock Tower Sanctuary at the beginning of last year. After being assaulted in his hometown, his relationship with his family became strained and he felt the need to move away.
What brought you to Brighton in the first place?
The beach! But also that it’s just generally a more accepting place than where I’m from, especially for someone gay like myself. I’d already come to Brighton for Pride events so I knew what it was like as a place overall – very LGBT friendly. I actually got assaulted for being gay back where I’m from, and after that I just thought, ‘I need to get out of here’.
How did you first hear about Clock Tower Sanctuary?
Through my friend who had also heard about it from another friend.
In what way has coming to CTS helped you most? What aspects of coming do you like most?
I like that all the staff and volunteers are really caring and literally they make you feel so welcome. Obviously coming in on your first day is pretty overwhelming – lots of new people and you don’t know what the atmosphere is going to be like. But the staff are so nice, you always feel like you can talk to them, even if it’s not your designated case-worker you can just say ‘Oh can we have a quick chat.’ I love that aspect and do that quite a bit. It’s really nice to have someone to chat to, even if it’s just to get something off your chest. I’ve never experienced that before in my life. I also like the fact it has policies against people being abusive or aggressive. It’s a safe space.
How would you describe what CTS does to a friend?
I would say, ‘CTS is a safe space where you can go, where you can get some food, get some help with housing, or if you need to clean up you can have a shower. If you’re running low on products or food they can help you with that. Also, if you need someone to talk to when you’re concerned about something and just want an adult’s perspective to help you make a decision. And yeah, it’s just kind of like a community for people in similar situations.’
Can you tell me a bit more about your current housing situation?
Yeah, so, I’m in emergency accommodation, I’ve been there for around 7 months now. I did have an interview for supported accommodation last week though and they said they’ll get back to me within the next month. So hopefully I’ll be moving on to there soon.
How did you end up being homeless?
Because I couldn’t really live at home anymore – I didn’t get on with my mum and stepdad. For a while I was more living with friends, like sofa-surfing, back in my hometown instead of living with my mum. Maybe the most important thing though is that after being assaulted I just didn’t really feel safe in my hometown anymore. So I felt I needed to leave and came to Brighton. My friend who had been homeless before gave me some advice and sent me to CTS, and the first day I got here they got me on the phone to YAC and helped me sort out some emergency accommodation.
For you, what’s the most difficult thing about being homeless?
Probably the uncertainty, I’d say. You get a lot of ‘maybes’ from the council and other places and can feel very unsure about where you might end up. I was told ‘maybe you’ll be put in Eastbourne’ and I didn’t know what that would be like. You just feel constantly on edge waiting to find out if you’re going to get placed and where.
Since you’ve been housed in emergency accommodation, have these feelings continued?
I actually went back up north for Christmas and made the rash decision to try and make things work with my family. That lasted less than a few days before I packed up my stuff and left again. But, within that period, I’d given up my emergency accommodation in Brighton. I don’t think I’m in the wrong for trying to make it work out. As soon as I was out of my hometown I rang the Clock Tower Sanctuary, spoke to my case-worker and explained the situation. I was really upset and had no idea what to do. She made me feel calm and just said, ‘contact YAC and start the process again’ and within a week I got placed back where I was before. They gave me emergency accommodation just two doors down from where I had been. When I left my hometown again, I felt like I was back at square one, but CTS helped me realise I wasn’t. Managing to sort out accommodation in a week has made me feel like I can do anything.
Have you had experience of seeking benefits? Have you recently worked or are you working at the moment?
I was working 25 hours through the Summer at a Spin studio, but that ended in the Autumn. I was doing front of house, meeting and greeting, and I really did love that job. After that, I went through a hard time with my mental health so I didn’t feel able to work. I feel ready to work again now though and I’m going to start looking for jobs next month. I’ve been told I can get a job for 16 hours a week and claim universal credit which seems like a good balance for now for my mental health. That gives me time to still come to Clock Tower and sort some things out. Last year I was so depressed, so this year I’d like to have time to get back into my interests and enjoy doing stuff.
What would you like to be doing this time next year? Where do you see yourself?
Working, extremely fit and healthy, completely sober and helping others experiencing what I’ve experienced. I’d just like to feel extremely stable and that I’m building myself up. I’d like to be in supported rather than emergency accommodation, because then I’d have more facilities – I haven’t been able to cook anything proper for seven months because I’ve only got a microwave and a kettle in my current place which has been a nightmare. That’s why I come to Clock tower everyday – usually it’s my only proper meal.
What would you say to people who haven’t experienced homelessness to help them understand what it’s like?
Mainly that it’s exhausting. Having to keep on phoning people and giving them a nudge, feeling like you’re not getting anywhere. Also that it’s just horrible - things like feeling cold a lot of the time because you’re spending so much time outside, all the while thinking ‘I might be sleeping on the streets tonight’ which is dangerous.