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Leah is one of the first recipients of a grant from the Eight Miles Away fund which aims to break the cycle of homelessness for young people living in Brighton.

Resident, Leah, stands by a large photograph of Brighton Pier, hanging on a wall

The Eight Miles Away project was started in 2020 by local artist Tony Mills, who created a series of eight paintings, each featuring a homeless person in different scenes of Brighton, which were exhibited and then sold by silent auction.

With the addition of sales of prints online, the paintings raised more than £23,000 in aid of Sanctuary Supported Living’s Brighton and Hover Foyer, a supported housing service which provides accommodation and support for homeless and vulnerable young people aged 16 to 25.

Leah, who is now 23 years-old, moved into the service in August 2019, following a period when she’d been sofa-surfing with family and friends due to a change of circumstances at home.

The pressure of trying to balance working part-time in retail with studying at college was proving too much for Leah. She was struggling financially with the ‘Catch 22’ working restrictions imposed by Universal Credit and was unable to afford to rent anywhere to live and was suffering with anxiety.

Brighton & Hove Foyer gave her a place to call home for the medium term, and the specialist team were on hand to provide the tailored support she needed to improve her wellbeing and help get her back on her feet. This stability gave her the opportunity to focus on her studies and ultimately succeed as she has accepted a place to study for a degree in psychology at university in September 2021.

Leah applied to the Eight Miles Away Fund to request the deposit and initial first month’s rent to secure a flat near to her chosen university as well as books and a laptop for her degree course – a total of £1,800.

When she moves on from the foyer in July, Leah will be keeping in regular touch with her support worker and will have access to additional funds should she need them for a period of up to two years and a maximum of up to almost £4,000. She hopes to continue working part-time while she studies, but the back-up of financial support will remain in place as she begins the next chapter of her life.

For the first time ever, I feel I do not have to struggle in order to move on with my life.

Leah, resident

Leah ultimately hopes to go on to study for a Masters and PHD in psychology and none of her career plans would have been possible without the financial support provided by the Eight Miles Away Fund.

Leah said: “For the first time ever, I feel I do not have to struggle in order to move on with my life.”

Jan Weston-Shaw, Deputy Local Service Manager at Brighton and Hove Foyer, said: “Many of the young people who come through our doors, like Leah, don’t meet the criteria for council assistance, despite working so hard. They are the hidden homeless in our city.

Some of the money raised by the sales of Tony’s paintings and prints is literally changing her life. She has done remarkably well and we’re so proud of everything she’s already achieved. We’re excited about what the future holds for Leah and we know that she has extremely bright prospects ahead of her”.

For more information about Sanctuary Supported Living’s services for people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, see our latest news or find a service near you.

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