Chris Griffin spent a year and a half sleeping on a computer chair and might well have become homeless had it not been for the 25-year-old’s perseverance and the support he received from Children North East and Your Homes Newcastle.
Last month he finally got the keys to his own housing association flat and his future has begun to look brighter.
The debts grew
When Chris’ grandma passed away, he took on the tenancy of her social housing flat. She had brought him up from being a small boy and her home had always been his.
However after losing his grandma, Chris had a spare bedroom, which meant he became liable for the bedroom tax. A mix up about the amount needed from Universal Credit to cover his rent led to Chris getting behind with his payments and his council tax.
Chris recalls: “I was piling up arrears for about four months and ended up with a total of over £3000 in debt.”
Stress and anxiety
He decided to give up his grandma’s flat and move in with his mum and step-dad who were already living in cramped circumstances, which resulted in Chris sleeping in his computer chair at night because there was no bed.
Thankfully a lady at the Jobcentre, who was aware Chris was suffering from stress and anxiety, suggested he approach our Young People’s Service for help.
Chris began working with one of our counsellors, Fiona, at the service’s Graingerville North premises on Westgate Road, Newcastle to find coping strategies.
“I found the counselling fantastic. It meant I could talk to somebody about my frustrations,” Chris explains.
Friends are fine, but in my case I find it easier to talk to someone who knows me less – there’s no judgement then.
Chris was also offered mentoring through our CAN (Confident Adults Newcastle) project, funded by players of People’s Postcode Lottery and the European Social Fund, which addresses social isolation amongst young adults.
His CAN mentor, Ricky, helped Chris obtain the necessary identification documents in order to open a bank account and took him along to Newcastle City Council’s housing advice centre.
He was advised to apply for a debt relief order or DRO and thanks to our fundraisers, Children North East was able to pay the £90 fee required to arrange it.
Getting his own keys
Getting the DRO not only took away the stress of the arrears but enabled Chris to be considered for rehousing through Your Homes Newcastle. Clare and Sasha from Your Homes Newcastle’s West End Housing Services office sorted out his tenancy agreement and ensured his utility bills were transferred and everything was in place financially.
In July Chris finally got the keys to his own flat in Newcastle. It has its own garden, which Chris is looking forward to planting up having learnt a lot about cultivation down on the Children North East allotment.
Chris really appreciates the help he’s received from our charity and from Your Homes Newcastle. He says: “It’s been so worthwhile. I don’t think I could have asked for a better service.
“Moving into my flat means I finally have room to breathe and I can be far more organised than I ever could before”