For 20 years Clocktower Sanctuary has been getting young people off the streets and, for Brighton’s homeless population between the ages of 16-25, it is an absolutely invaluable service; a daily drop-in centre that helps pave the way towards a better future.
In 2017 alone, the Sanctuary’s clients ate 4,454 hot meals and took 1,144 hot showers. 61 young people received one-to-one services and 38 young people got themselves a job as a direct result of the services they received at Clocktower. These aren’t just faceless numbers, rolling off a balance sheet. They are numbers that represent hope.
PLATF9RM is so proud to announce them as our partner charity for the year. We’ll be running loads of fundraising events and programs throughout 2018, so stay tuned! In the meantime, have a read of our interview with Natalia Borg, Development Manager of the Clockhouse Sanctuary (or ‘Sancys’, as the locals call it).
Hey Natalia. Can you give us a quick history of the Clocktower Sanctuary?
We were started in 1997 by volunteers from local churches who wanted to do something about the rise of street homelessness in Brighton. The Sanctuary was originally one floor, really small, and looked like your aunt’s living room! We moved to our current premises 11 years ago and this year will be our 20th anniversary.
That’s such an incredible achievement. How has it changed in that time?
It was very much a tea and sympathy model to being with; a safe place for young, homeless people to come, where they would get some support.
Now it’s an energetic, driven organisation, which takes somebody from crisis – sleeping rough, sofa-surfing, sleeping in a tent or in supported accommodation – and engages with them on many levels, before hopefully getting them into accommodation and employment.
What services do you offer?
We’re open six days a week and have a drop-in centre from 11 - 3. They can get showered, use computers, eat healthy meals in our kitchen, check their post, get support from our volunteers or just hang out.
There’s activities like yoga, HIIT, or music sessions with Audio Active where they might do songwriting, rap or guitar lessons.
We also offer little bitesize two hour modules delivered by trained volunteers. for life skills that you and me might take for granted. This could be cooking on a budget, assertiveness, managing your emotions, CV writing or interview practice.
Presumably they can then show these to potential employers that they’re really making an effort to change their situation.
Exactly, The modules are accredited and it’s about giving you the CV, and the confidence to go and give it out.
How important is talking therapy and mentoring?
At the core of everything is our one-to-one work. It involves us finding out what’s going on with them, breaking it down, and trying to navigate them out of homelessness. They get as much of this as they need.
That is so great. Who does this?
We have a team of volunteers [the Sanctuary has around 45 members] who do a lot of ad-hoc mentoring and the idea is they come from different backgrounds and are of different ages- so hopefully there’s always someone that will match with a client they’ll feel comfortable with. Then we have trained staff who do case-working too.
What is the biggest problem facing Brighton’s young and homeless?
There’s a national housing crisis and in Brighton we’ve got the second largest homeless population. You’ve got the high house prices coming in and council cuts so there’s less supported accommodation. You can’t build more affordable housing because you’ve literally got the sea on one side and the Downs on another. Also, people come down London which is feeding the housing market. There’s a massive discrepancy between what an average month’s rent is and what the salary is. The way to get out of homelessness is the private renting sector, but how do you get into it when it’s so expensive? It’s incredibly challenging.
And what’s the biggest issue facing individuals on a personal basis?
Mental health. But mental health and addiction are a storm waiting to happen and if young people have both that’s a really hard thing to overcome. Imagine if you had to sleep rough and you were frightened and alone…how would you sleep at night? It’s easy to get into drugs and they’re available.
Presumably you can then get caught in a web of drugs and drug-dealers.
Yes. This is why Clocktower is so important, it’s a place where young people can come to be with peers but specifically to get support. Rather than with older, more entrenched homeless people – where the focus is often learning to survive on a day-to-day basis – we want to teach them how to move on.
Finally. How much does it cost per year to run Clocktower?
£440,000. We get no statutory funding; it’s all through local community, businesses, schools, trusts and foundations that we apply to. So working with people like yourselves is absolutely key!