Michael. Belfast, Ireland.

“My name is Michael and I am 19 years old. I have been living in a supported living hostel for the past 10 months. It is two bus journeys away from my own community, my family, my friends & all of the connections I have had all my life. My room consists of a single bed and a small kitchen. From my Universal Credit I pay £30 per month service charge towards the hostel, £50 a month repayment to Universal Credit because I had to take out an upfront loan while waiting for the first payment, as well as money for food and bills. I have a young son who I provide for also. As you can imagine I am left with very little at the end of the week for anything else.

I was so excited to gain my place on this programme back in March. I was wanting to better myself and do something worthwhile whilst also being a positive role model for my son who lives with his mummy. The programme started and I never missed a day, the support was brilliant and I knew this would be my next step to help me get into tech, university or employment.

But unfortunately, due to the Covid-19 outbreak the course went online at the end of March. All of the workshops and classes went online. I have a phone but it is an old version as I can’t afford the newest one, it doesn’t have internet access and it doesn’t receive or make calls so I couldn’t access the coursework.

My hostel received thousands in Government funding to put a computer suite, in so I asked about using it to help me keep up on the course. I was told due to restrictions it was only one at a time so I could never get a place in the room at the time when my course was happening, or if I did I had already missed part of the week which led me to fall more and more behind. I asked could I use the phone at reception to receive calls from my mentor and at least get my one-to-one support however, I was told I’m not allowed due to Covid-19. I asked about getting Wi-Fi access in my room or somewhere in the hostel, this place that is meant to be my home, but was told it’s against the rules. I felt myself falling further and further behind in my course. The rest of the group who had Wi-Fi were getting involved online with google classroom for our studies, online activities and games through a Facebook page and Zoom for our group sessions but for me to try and pay for data to keep up with all of that was impossible.

The people in the course with support of PPR tried everything to help me in any way they could as they knew I was really trying to keep engaging but I just kept being met by barriers because of the hostel. Youth workers could see that my mental health was getting lower and lower. I saw people on the course succeeding when I couldn’t. I felt so isolated, I couldn’t connect with anyone outside of my room at the hostel. And especially in full lockdown I wasn’t even allowed to leave to visit family or friends.

Having access to internet was the only thing standing between me and connection, me and support for my mental health, me and my son and me and opportunities for future employment or tech. I want to be able to join tech and apply for jobs like friends from my course are but I have no way of doing it as its all online. A lot of hostels got a lot of funding to help us during lockdown and I can’t see why we are being denied our human right to be able to have the same opportunities offered to other young people just because we live in a hostel.”

— Michael [Belfast, Ireland]

 

The Global Homelessness Action is an international digital initiative that provides people experiencing homelessness the opportunity to collectively claim their right to housing and demand urgent action from governments through video, audio, and written testimonies. Learn more at maketheshift.org/homelessnessaction.

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