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Bradford City Centre Project hostel has turned our lives around
Living in a cold, soaking garage with no food or proper furniture and little sympathy from a family he had repeatedly let down was life for Jake Jones last year.
When his family threw him out because of his stealing and drug taking, he stayed with extended family, but then they asked him to leave too.
“I never thought they’d do it to me no matter how much I hurt them. I was young and stupid at the time. I had so much anger for them. Now I’ve learnt it was me and all my own doing.
“I was homeless. I was living in a garage for a month with a sun lounger in it and it proper stunk. My feet would be soaking,” the 19-year-old said.
Jake had no money, so he stole food and no way of washing, so he shoplifted clothes.
Now, after a spell in jail, as he sits in a youth hostel in Shipley and openly talks about his past and his plans for the future, such despairing times seem tough to comprehend.
But with a Job Seeker’s Allowance income for £110 a fortnight and welfare reform changes looming, which mean his benefit will eventually be paid monthly, Jake’s life still has its challenges.
“As soon as I get the money, it goes. I’m trying to make sure I get my food shopping first. If I was getting £200 a month paid in one go it would be hard not to spend it and leave nothing. It’d be a big temptation,” Jake said.
Jake is one of nine residents at the Bradford City Centre Project hostel. Each has their own story about how they ended up there, but most involve family breakdowns. Staff work with the people aged 16 to 25 from across Yorkshire to help get them a permanent home, access counselling and find jobs. They also help with life skills such as managing a budget.
Hostel manager Pat Smith said: “You can sit down and make budget plans, but you can’t go as far as walking them round the supermarket.”
Jake said he was apprehensive about asking for help to find somewhere to live.
“I had a bad idea about hostels, but I rang Incommunities for help and they rung up the hostel and they had a place so I came. It was just like a family. Everybody looks out for each other. The staff help us out a lot.
“This hostel has changed me. If it weren’t for the staff I’d still be shoplifting and taking drugs,” Jake said. “I grew up in Keighley and I didn’t want to leave ever and now I’ve left. I’ve seen it’s trouble for me.”
Jake is now back in touch with some members of his family and hopes to train and find work.
The Bradford City Centre Project has four hostels which are always full. It has a contract with Social Services and government funding through a scheme called Supporting People and Bradford Council.
Demand is always high. “If we got a spare place today, it would be full by the morning,” Mr Smith said.
Residents pay £10 a week for bills to stay in a shared flat and pay for their own food. Jake shares his flat with Gregg Lyndon who has been at the hostel since mid-February.
Gregg has always worked full time and until recently lived in a flat in Halifax. But when he lost his job following illness and with no family nearby he became homeless.
The 22-year-old said: “I didn’t really qualify for enough benefits to carry on and I had to move out. I was sofa-surfing at mates’, but it got to the point where I couldn’t carry on.”
Gregg contacted charity Doorways who found him a place with the Bradford City Centre Project.
He is also on Job Seeker’s Allowance with a weekly income of £55, compared to the £300 a week he earned whilst working. His hope is to get back into full time work.
He said: “I’ve found it really hard. I’m not the sort of person to sit about doing nothing. This is the first time I’ve been on benefits.
“Losing my job and house was really a shock. I just thought, how do people do it? People with kids, how do they live on benefits? It’s changed my view of people living on benefits and people living on the streets. It’s so hard to get out of it.”
Mr Smith said changes to how benefits are paid, which are being introduced from this year, will make life more difficult for young people.
“Benefit changes won’t work. The good thing about getting payments fortnightly is that if you get to the stage where you’ve got hardly anything, you only have to wait a few days. It’s just not going to last,” he said.
* The Government is merging several means tested benefits from this year under wider changes as part of the Welfare Reform Act 2012.
Job Seeker's Allowance, Housing Benefit and Income Support will become a new single benefit called the Universal Credit.
But the new system concerns those who work with people on benefits.
Bradford City Centre Project hostel manager Pat Smith said: “The whole idea is to pay everybody the different benefits they’re on in one payment. Most young people are just on Job Seeker's, but if it’s paid in one go, it will just go.”
The changes also mean people’s rent will be paid to them, rather than directly to landlords.
Incommunities neighbourhood director Dave Dickens said the changes were the biggest he had seen and housing association customers he works with were worried.
He said a pilot of the scheme run in Wakefield found people struggled to manage their money, not because they were feckless, but because they had cash available to buy items such as washing machines, which may save money in the long-term, but meant a missed rent payment that month.
Mr Dickens said: “One of the difficulties is that we’re talking about lots of people who will not have necessarily had experience of budgets.”
There are also concerns about the administration of the system.
“There’s no national advertising campaign. It’s going to fall on the council and DWP to notify people.
“There’s also an online claims process and 80 per cent of people will make claims online, but a lot of our people are not used to making claims online,” Mr Dickens said.
People getting into debt and using doorstep lenders is also a worry.
“There’s a huge problem with doorstep lending. When people have to choose to pay the rent or a lender who’s standing on their doorstep, then those lenders will get paid,” Mr Dickens said.
But the Government hopes a single monthly payment will help replicate a monthly salary and help people manage money more efficiently in preparation for work.
The Universal Credit will start from October for new claimants and existing claimants will then be moved to the new system between October and 2017.