To explain my situation to you I first need to give you a bit of a back story.
It had always been my dream to studying mental health nursing after years of firsthand experience. I was offered a place at University of Brighton and they soon became my first choice due to the vibrant and accepting nature of the city.
To study here I left behind a socially rented flat, which I had spent thousands furnishing, selling off my possessions at a fraction of the cost so that I wouldn’t need to pay for storage. I left my previous home in Hampshire behind and moved into student halls on a 50 week contract.
At a point in the first academic year I noticed myself becoming unwell from the pressure of a nursing degree, noticing this I decided to intermit my studies until 2018. As a disabled student and care leaver I was advised I would be allowed to stay in halls on an intermission as long as I was able to pay rent.
At the end of March this year I lost a close friend to suicide, this sent my own mental health rocketing downwards and I was soon hospitalised on a psychiatric ward to keep myself safe. During that first admission to a psychiatric ward I paid my instalment of £1,611.43 to cover April to Mid June, a payment I resented having had my NHS bursary and Student Finance stopped due to intermitting. Nonetheless, I paid to keep my contract secure so that I had a home to go back to upon discharge.
I have spent the majority of April and May in hospital, four admissions broken up to a few days spent at home in between. Three days after my most recent discharge I was given 4 weeks notice to leave, on the premise that the university are unable to support me.
This might seem caring, however I have the following points to argue.
-I paid for halls, getting myself into debt in my overdraft, whilst not actually able to occupy them due to my mental health requiring hospitalisation. I paid this for the security of having somewhere to live as I don’t have family to support me.
-The university could have decided at any point from my first admission at the beginning of April, that they were unable to support me. They have sat on their hands taking my money until my most recent discharge. Had they given this decision sooner I would be in a considerably less fragile financial situation currently, as well as potentially having been discharged into new suitable accommodation, rather than returning home only later to be burdened by further mental health compromising stress of facing homelessness.
-The university may argue it is my best interests that I can live somewhere with more support. However, they fail to notice that many people presenting as homeless to their councils end up in B&Bs, hostels etcetera far away from their original address and often surrounded by other people who cannot maintain tenancies for other reasons (violence, addictions, anti-social behaviour). Not to insult anyone who does end up in that situation because of the formerly mentioned things, but this is not a good environment to be in when you’re particularly vulnerable and fighting suicidal thoughts every day.
-My mental health has been severely impacted by losing a close friend to suicide, leading to my hospitalisations which the university are using as evidence I should leave my current accommodation in halls. This feels tactless, harsh and cold, I feel as if I am being penalised for my friend dying.
So, ultimately, I would like the university to refund me the full amount of £1,611.43 that I paid in April. As the university rather than supporting me, are making me homeless. I paid that instalment of money for peace of mind and to secure my accommodation whilst unable to actually stay there. I believe they have handled the situation poorly, simply to cover their own backs so that they do not have to worry about one of their students committing suicide on campus. Finally, I feel like my notice to leave is an act of discrimination, as I do not believe they would ask someone to leave after being physically unwell.
You too can help with this petition. Sign here: Sophie’s Petition