June 2020 – as the lockdown began, our clients who were rough sleeping were quickly triaged into accommodation with little time to prepare themselves. Some were placed in unfamiliar parts of Brighton and some further away in Newhaven or Eastbourne. Many told us they were pleased to be accommodated but found this new, unplanned change of circumstances difficult. They didn’t know where their friends were, and some had no way of communicating with the outside world. Whilst most now have a phone or tablet, the first few weeks were understandably very disorientating.
Some of our clients were anxious that the lockdown separated them not just from their friends but also their routines and the places they can go to for support. They told us that they have really missed not being able to come to our day centre to wash their clothes, cook, shower and go online. They are missing the activities and workshops and daily interaction we all took for granted.
Instead of a daily, face to face catch up and a conversation over a meal or a cuppa at our day centre, communication with our team of Support Co-ordinators has been by phone and email and is more intense and less conversational, although is still very valued. As Darren says: “If it wasn’t for you guys, a lot of us would have given up ages ago.”
Many have been feeling increasingly isolated. Unfortunately, the pressures of lockdown have caused a deterioration for some of our clients’ mental health and an increase in their substance use. One young man, Michael reported increasing paranoia, resulting in hoarding clothes and food in case the supply runs out. He says: “My mental health is deteriorating; I find being on my own such a lot is very difficult”.
We are also starting to help existing and new clients who were working and have lost their jobs or been furloughed. Those in private rented accommodation are worried that they will be evicted: this comes after months of working hard to move on from homelessness and unemployment. We know that young people who were in education have had their courses disrupted and without access to computers, printers and the internet, continuing their studies has been very difficult.
In common with other agencies in the city, we are seeing young people becoming homeless for the first time or returning to homelessness, as a result of family and relationship breakdown, often triggered by worsening mental health, substance use and domestic violence in the home.
However, some of our clients are enjoying the opportunity to start afresh, building good relationships with people in their accommodation and working on plans for the future. Others have been back in touch with their families and are working to restore these relationships too.
We will continue to work with them providing support and encouragement to build on these foundations and help them to create more stable futures. We are making plans to return to our day centre and we will be open as soon as we can ensure that it is safe for our clients, staff and volunteers. We are also working with others in the voluntary sector and are in consultation with the Council to understand what happens now to young people who have been housed.
Wherever we are, we will continue to offer a vital lifeline of practical and emotional support to some of the most vulnerable young adults in the city. This has only been possible through the generosity of our individual donors along with funders including the Sussex Community Foundation, Ernest Kleinwort Charitable Trust, Albion as One Fund, Brighton & Hove Council Community Fund and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.
Thank you all.