Lockdown changed everything for Phillip, when he lost his job, his home and found out he had a serious medical condition. The situation saw his mental health hit an all-time low. The staff at Hightown's homeless services have helped him turn things around and feel safe and settled.
Phillip was working and living in Hemel Hempstead, when the pandemic hit. He found himself in a position that many others were in too. He was employed as a contractor and didn't get the option of being furloughed, so his income disappeared when lockdown started and his employment ended. His private landlord then wouldn't accept housing benefit payments so he found himself without a home.
Phillip was grateful to family and friends who let him stay on their sofas but this wasn't a long term solution and Phillip found himself at Open Door in St Albans during the first lockdown. With the restrictions in place at the time, Phillip had to spend almost the entire day in his room and this started to effect his mental health. He decided to put all his effort into getting a housing application submitted to Dacorum Borough Council, so he could move into somewhere that was more suitable for him.
Added to this, Phillip received a life changing diagnosis from doctors in November 2019, telling him that he had a heart condition, making it impossible for him to go back to the job he had been doing.
Following his application and a short stay at an emergency night shelter, Phillip was offered the chance to move to temporary homeless supported accommodation in Hemel Hempstead, a new Hightown service which started running in April 2021.
As Phillip puts it:
"I'm not your typical homeless person, I'm a new generation of homeless. There are lots of people like me who were working away, minding their own business and just circumstances out of their control meant they became homeless."
Staff at Queensway have helped Phillip with his Universal Credit application, which he admits he found difficult to navigate since he'd never applied for benefits before and was surprised at the amount of paperwork involved and the level of detail needed.
When asked what he would say to someone coming into the Queensway service for the first time Phillip said:
"Embrace the services of a well-oiled machine, let the professionals help you. They know better than your friends. Don't be shy, this isn't the first time they've heard about problems. They will be able to help you."
Phillip is now looking to the future and is grateful to the support team for all their help. He adds:
"Hightown have taken the stress out of my life. I don't have to worry about my heart condition here. The key worker sessions are helpful, they are going to help me get on the right level of benefits and help me get rehoused. With my forced early retirement I'm thinking about what to do next and would like to start building furniture."
Hightown Support run a number of homeless services across St Albans, Dacorum and Aylesbury.