25 July 2021

A couple of weeks ago I spoke to Emma*. As she bravely shared her story with me, it was a fresh reminder of why young people urgently need access to safe and affordable accommodation. This month we’re celebrating raising over £200,000 towards the Sidwell Studios build. Emma’s story is a stark reminder of why the new development is so needed.  

“In February 2020 life was going well. My partner and I had saved up enough of a deposit to move into our own place. We both had jobs, and the future looked great. But then lockdown hit and everything changed.  

Our places of work were closed. Our employers told us that we would continue to be paid, but they never paid us. We didn’t have any savings and after a few months we couldn’t afford to pay our rent. It was really stressful.  

In August 2020 we lost our house. We’d put all our savings into that and we couldn’t afford to live anywhere else. We’d been under so much stress, our relationship came to an end and we broke up.  

I had to move back in with my family. I felt so isolated. Normally if you have a break-up, you go and spend time with friends and they help you through it. But instead I was stuck in the house all the time, stressing and worrying. I really didn’t know what to do. 

During that year it was the worst mental state I’ve ever been in. The hardest part was the daily stress of not knowing what was going to happen and if I’d get a job again. 

There were jobs beginning to open up in Exeter, but I don’t drive and I couldn’t afford to pay for public transport. It was a catch-22. I was going on Indeed everyday looking for jobs.  

My family was also struggling to get work and finances were really tight. A few times I thought I might end up homeless. I was really out of money.  

I started looking up alternative housing to renting and that’s when I first heard about YMCA Exeter. I called them straight away and asked if they could help me.  

I moved into YMCA Exeter in March 2021, exactly a year after the first lockdown began. It’s a massive worry off my mind. I have my own place and I can get support with my mental health and with my finances.  

It’s just wonderful to feel safe and secure. I’ve never been in this state before. I’ve never had to know about financial support.  

I’m now trying to figure out what I’d like to do. I studied at Exeter College, but I really love plants and I’m thinking I could maybe get into horticulture. I’ve been hearing about people getting into gardening since lockdown and I think I’d like to do that. I’ve also been offered a job. It’s such a relief! 

*We’ve changed Emma’s name to protect her identity 

Will you help us raise the final 10% and ensure young people like Emma have access to safe and affordable accommodation?