Action on Accommodation: 17 November 2017

Finding reliable accommodation while studying at higher education is high on estranged students' list of priorities. Many students who do not have support from a family network find themselves in difficult living situations and may be at risk of homelessness.

Stand Alone's research showed that 33% of estranged students interviewed had difficulties finding somewhere to live. 15% actually officially registered as homeless before going to university.

Conference presentations included research by Becca Bland, CEO of Stand Alone, into reasons for estranged students struggling with finding accommodation, best practice examples from three universities on their approaches to offer financial and other support in securing safe and suitable housing, and from Unite Foundation on how the place to live is important in creating a sense of belonging while at university.

A panel of estranged students gave insight into the difficulties they have faced in finding somewhere to live during their university course and what HEIs might be able to do more:

Q: What are the most important things accommodation gives you?

Accommodation gives me independence and a chance to live where my university is without having to commute. A safe, nice place to live.

Shelter. A happy place. A place I can call my own with no implications to what I do within my own home.

Q: What have the biggest struggles been for you in accessing accommodation while at university?

When organising accommodation to live in for second year, the biggest struggle was sorting out the money for the deposit as this had to be paid in December – so still the start of first year – meaning I didn't have the funds to pay this myself.

I originally began looking at student accommodation for my 3rd year of studies, but all the talks of a guarantor and the rent amounts caused me to begin having panic attacks from the thought of having no one that would be able to help me if I couldn't pay my rent and the threat of almost becoming homeless all over again.

Q: What kind of support with finding accommodation have you received from your university?

My university has multiple student letting agents on/on the edge of campus giving many options to help find accommodation.

My university does not have a policy in place for estranged students and there was no financial support in place to help afford accommodation. Therefore, I had to constantly dip in and out of my overdraft. I had to go through the process of finding accommodation by myself.

Q; How can universities help estranged students better with accommodation?

Make it clearer to estranged students about the support that is available. My university offer a generous estranged student bursary, however I did not know about this until the middle of my second year of university. Had I known about this in my first year, it would have helped with deposits I had to pay for accommodation.

I didn't know about the estrangement support until it had actually happened to me. The extra bursary the university give you just helps you through those months in between student finance where money may be a little tight and my university offer support such as counselling to help students through hard times. For example, one of our Transition team supported me throughout my entire Estrangement application and offered me free counselling if I needed it due to going through hard times.

Q; How can Student Unions better support estranged students?

Student unions could work with the university to communicate the support the university offers for estranged students so that if they do need help with anything they know exactly where to go for help and if they have any questions who the best people to ask are.

Publicising about estrangement and estrangement support more. I know a few individuals who have now left university who are estranged and did not know about the support the university offers.






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