Key themes: debt, scamming, unable to find rental accommodation, family breakdown, racism & discrimination.
Catherine* came to see us as she was really struggling to find somewhere to stay. She was studying in Bristol and was really excited by her course.
Catherine and Caring in Bristol staff spent an action support session looking at accommodation in Bristol and listening to her experiences of racism, family breakdown and passion for studying a subject she loves.
After months of sofa surfing with a family friend, Catherine was starting to get really worried.
Although she arrived in the city in August, she hadn’t been able to get any accommodation from her college.
Catherine was moving between different friends’ sofas and had been trying to find a private
room for months. She was tired, felt unsafe and desperately wanted to be able to close her own
door. It felt like every time she messaged someone online, the room was already gone, and people
were constantly asking for money upfront.
Sitting down with a cup of tea, Catherine told us that she had worked all summer and recently paid
over a thousand pounds to secure a room. It was the first room she had seen in months that was in
her budget and that the landlord had been positive. Although she hadn’t seen the room, she knew
the building as a friend had stayed there last year. Having paid the money, she had heard nothing
more and realised she had been scammed.
Together, we looked at the payment and saw that Catherine had paid the money to a foreign bank
account. We supported her to contact her banks fraud team and importantly listened to Catherine
as she told us how she felt ashamed at not having seen the scam. We reassured Catherine and
supported her to make a plan to improve her self-confidence and to be aware of scam schemes in
Catherine had approached her college for support but had been told there was no help available.
Together we got in touch with them and alerted the college to the vulnerabilities of this student and
her high risk of street homelessness.
We listened to Catherine as she told us about her family situation and realised she would be eligible
for some extra support as she was care experienced. We helped her to begin the application for this.
So what next?
Catherine’s situation is her own, but we are noticing clear patterns in our Early Doors work.
Firstly, we are seeing disproportionate numbers of young people of colour access our services. All of
these young people have stories of discrimination from landlords and of being unsafe in housing
because of racism. Many of these young people have experienced issues that stem from structural
racism including overcrowding and disrepair growing up.
In Bristol, research shows us that Black people make up 24% of homeless households despite making up 6% of the Bristolian population (Black Network South West housing report 2020). It’s clear that Black and Ethnic Minority communities face deep inequality when it comes to accessing safe and secure homes.
Secondly, the speed that Bristol’s’ rental market moves and high upfront costs are huge barriers to
young people. In an overly competitive and unfair market, if you don’t have a contracted job,
thousands of pounds ready to pay and a guarantor who owns a property, you’re going to struggle
Thirdly, these factors are forcing young people into dangerous situations. We’ve worked with young
people who are in debt, forced to stay in accommodation where they have experienced hate crime
or who are sofa surfing for years.
So what works?
Bristol Early Doors works with people who are amazing advocates for themselves. We have loved
sitting with people and listening as they identify their problems and find their own solutions. The
final clear pattern is that young people with strong communities can better swim against the tide of
Examples of amazing supportive communities we work with:
- Groups of Queer young people looking out for each other and sharing tips on how to
navigate Universal Credit or who is a LGBT+ friendly employer
- the Grandmothers who send WhatsApp messages telling all their friends about the Warm
Home Discount and offer to sit down with young mums to help them apply
- the worker who helps a young colleague take a breath before they send money off and
explains about foreign and national bank accounts
We want to better support communities to build their own solutions to Bristol’s housing crisis. We’re
starting with sharing the knowledge and information we have, but we don’t want to end there.
- If you are interested in learning more about practical ways that we can prevent
homelessness, join our one off Community Ambassador training. We have sessions you can
join or we can train your community group.
- If you live in Easton, Ashley or Hartcliffe & Withywood and want to help build solutions join
our monthly co-production workshops. Together we will discuss, work, make and share our
Illustrations kindly donated by: Will Brown Illustrator