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Citizens UK Peterborough and Hannah's story of homelessness

Peterborough's newest community action group met this week to establish its priorities - and hear exactly why it is so necessary.
Citizen meet
Some of those who met on Tuesday

On Tuesday the Peterborough Citizen's Delegates Assembly met, to report back on its findings and research from the past three months.

More than 80 students, teachers, faith groups, volunteers, and other community members came together virtually to consider the next steps for the movement, which aims to create change for social justice and the common good.

Citizens UK has branches across the country and in Peterborough the organisation has already emboldened young people across the city to push for greater support from mental health services.

The alliance is still in its early stages, but has been training leaders to listen to the stories of Peterborough, identifying four key recurring issues of concern:

  • Issue 1 Homelessness and housing
  • Issue 2 Unfriendliness/Racism
  • Issue 3 Mental Health
  • Issue 4 Crime/Safety

Several anecdotes behind the four issues were told, and associate organiser Dilraj Kaur said: "Tonight, we will hear the feedback of the Listening Peterborough Citizens have been undergoing since October last year.

"All these organisations posed the two same questions; What upsets you about Peterborough? And what puts pressure on you and those you care about in Peterborough?

"The organisations listened to their members and inspired leaders to give power to the people. They heard stories which will be shared tonight. We will be moved, we will be angry and we will feel compassion. But I would like to invite you to remember, in the words of Dalai Lama; “It is not enough to be compassionate. You must act."

The first issue of homelessness and housing was summed up by Hannah, who is a student in Peterborough. These are her words.

 I have been in temporary accommodation since having to leave home at 15 due to family issues. For three years I have lived in temporary accommodation. I am currently living in a hostel in the city centre.

The temporary accommodation I live in has many problems. There was mould on the walls that took months for the landlord to fix. Over Christmas I was left without heating for three weeks. There was also nowhere to do laundry.

This made it incredibly difficult form me over the Christmas period. I know I am one of many young people in this situation in the city. I feel that young people’s homelessness has not been recognised as a serious issue in Peterborough, which it is.

I have always tried my best to better my situation. But I have encountered many obstacles along the way. Despite being at high risk of homelessness through College and having various family issues. I was still able to achieve an overall grade of A for my Health and Social Care Level 3 Course at Peterborough College and go on to study for a Batchelor’s degree in Psychosocial Studies at UCP.

I am currently looking to start volunteering with the charity Change Grow Live to become a drug and alcohol support volunteer. When I graduate, I want a career that enables me to help and support others, as people have helped and supported me in difficult times.

I have always been passionate about caring for those in need regardless of my situation. I live by the motto that ‘everything happens for a reason’ and try to view my situation in a positive light as there is always someone in a worse position than I am. I am sharing my experience tonight is to raise awareness of young people and homelessness within our city at this current time.

Social housing will always be scarce, especially for individuals who are young, single and have no children. The waiting list for Peterborough City Council housing is very long as there are thousands of people applying. Even as a priority case I have struggled to find a home because I have only been on the waiting list for 1 year.

Others in the hostel have been waiting for up to 4 years. If I had not started saving from the age of 16 for a deposit, I would not be in the position I am today and would be severely struggling financially. Going to university has also enabled me to access student finance and this, along with my part time job, enables me to get by.

My student finance loan only covers the rent and food, however which means I must work ridiculous hours around university to ensure financial stability. But finding a decent and affordable place to live would make a massive difference for me as I look to complete my education and start my career. I have done the best to better my education, work and personal life to ensure I set up a stable future for myself.

I believe that the struggle I am going through now will support me with further struggles in the future. I am a much stronger person, and I am more aware of the world around me. Thank you for listening to my testimony, I hope this will help other individuals that are in my situation in the future.

At the conclusion of the meeting attendees voted on which two issues they would initially concentrate on - mental health and safety/crime - with a view to having ideas in place by the time of the mayoral elections

Peterborough Matters will be running anecdotes from all four issues over the next few days.