Since Zara, 18, found support from Depaul UK she has been daring to dream of a brighter future. But as the cost-of-living crisis continues, those dreams are fading.  

“I’ve been running away since I was 13 or 14. My dad was abusive and no one at my mum’s home really cared about me – so I ran away.  

“I tried living with my sister in Bournemouth, getting by on her student loan and food banks, but we just couldn’t manage. I became homeless. I was given temporary accommodation, which was a big relief but a long way from anyone I knew. At last, I made it to Depaul UK housing, sharing with other people in a similar situation to me. 

“I’m 18. I’ve been living here for nearly three years. We share a kitchen, I’ve got a bedroom and there’s a common room. But now it’s hard. I struggle sometimes with my mental health. Everything’s got expensive. You have to look for the cheapest things everywhere. After I pay the service charge, I’ve only got about £1 a day left for food. That’s not a joke. 

“I sometimes ask family and friends for help, but they don’t have money either. The support workers do what they can. They give us food bank vouchers, but that’s the most they can do. It’s embarrassing to say to people I don’t have enough food. I don’t tell them. Everyone living here has at least gone one day where they’ve eaten nothing.   

“If you don’t have the money to eat, then you don’t really have a chance.”

“Depaul UK gave us budgeting classes to help us learn how to handle money well. And they’ve also helped get me chances. I’m training to be a chef. I’m lucky because my college is a 15-minute walk down the road. Anywhere else, I couldn’t pay for my travel. 

“I’d really like to be able to fit in and go out with friends like other people do, but I just can’t because affording food is more important. Some days I do feel left out, but I know I have to just get on with it. 

“I wish I could live in my own place. I want to be able to pay rent like everyone else does. But jobs don’t pay enough. One day, I want to earn good money – maybe I can open a restaurant – but right now I don’t know how I’m ever going to get there. 

“During Covid, the Government raised the level of credit a bit. That made things manageable. But then they reduced it back and now it’s not manageable, it’s not at all.” 

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