‘They were on the edge already’: Business preventing homelessness on pandemic blow

Rebecca White (inset) has spoken of how her team at Your Own Place has worked tirelessly to prevent

Rebecca White (inset) has spoken of how her team at Your Own Place has worked tirelessly to prevent homelessness in Norfolk rising. Picture: Archant - Credit: Archant

A social enterprise working to keep vulnerable people from becoming homeless has revealed how demand has increased for its services – but on a shoestring of a budget.

Your Own Place, a community interest company which aims to get young people into secure accommodation and work, saw its revenue streams evaporate when the pandemic set in.

But founder Rebecca White could not shut up shop and wait uncertainly – she had teenagers on the end of the phone on the brink of collapse.

She said: “We work with young people who are on the edge. The pandemic pushed them off. This has been an incredibly difficult year for all businesses but we mentor individuals who are suicidal – we couldn’t just furlough everyone and take the cash.”

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Instead her team worked “hell for leather” to continue to support these individuals across Norfolk, launching a crowdfunding page raising £5,000 to see them through the toughest periods.

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“I have always been adamant that we are a social enterprise not a charity. I want to pay our way and not ask for donations, but we simply had no choice in the scenario,” she said.

One of the biggest challenges has been communicating with their mentees – many of which have no access to wifi or data.

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“This pandemic has shone a light on digital exclusion. People who can’t afford to pay for wifi or for data, or they don’t have the confidence to get online,” she said.

“It just got worse during the pandemic. There’s a massive misconception that young people just pick up tech and can get it to work – that’s simply not the case and it creates massive barriers.”

Her team have dedicated time to talking mentees through the basics of being online.

“People are embarrassed. They don’t want to admit they haven’t got an email address or how to get onto the internet. I swing between angry and resentful that no one has given them the basics and hopeful that things will get better for them,” she said.

“We work with such amazing people – they are strong and resilient. But they shouldn’t have to be.”

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