“Politics in today’s society seems to do nothing but divide, but [I have seen] how it can equally bring people together.” These are the words of 19-year-old Sam Sullivan from Hereford who was recently forced into homelessness by his own family and then found an online community of differing political views came to his aid when he needed it most.
In October 2016, at just 17, Sam was kicked out of his home following an argument with his parents and he subsequently spent a year living in a flat provided by a Hereford based youth charity, until financial challenges led to Sam moving in with his Grandparents in November 2017.
However, in March of this year they too forced Sam out after a disagreement arising from him sustaining a minor back injury at work, Sam initially stayed with a friend and his friend’s mother in Swansea whilst he tried to find a more permanent solution.
Seeking help from local services in Swansea provided no help for Sam; “[they] seemed to provide a roadblock at every turn. Every charity I approached told me the same thing: you’re not from here, go back to Hereford; The only option anyone in Swansea could give me was to go back where I came from and freeze on the streets there instead of here.”.
It was during this time that Sam took to The Chamber, a Mock Parliament for political enthusiasts on Facebook, consisting of everything from Minarchists to Communists, with everything in between. It was there he vented his worries in one of the group chats, not expecting anything but just using it as a place to let off some steam. Luke Rodgers, another member of the group however decided he would try and help Sam.
Luke said that he “wasn’t really in the financial situation to help myself so I tried to publicise [Sam’s] situation in the hopes that those who could help, would. I don’t really know what I was expecting. Perhaps a few well-wishers and the odd pound here and there.”
However, the Chamber Community did much more than that: According to Sam he received £300 within the first day and another £200 since. “People contacted charities on my behalf, offered me places to stay, gave me advice on where to go and what to do to improve my situation. It was incredible to see, if more than a little shocking”
As these donations came in, Sam was told that he could no longer stay with his friend’s mother, something Sam knew would come sooner or later but now he had a life line. He stayed briefly with another member of the Chamber Community whilst using the donations to get his life back on track. The donations paid for the deposit on shared house where he is now living and paid for him to get the bus to and from job interviews, so he could start stabilising his life. He is now working full-time and at the time of writing is still using the donations to cover his commute to and from work whilst he awaits his first pay cheque.
Without the help from this community of strangers, Sam doesn’t know what would have happened, he only knows that his future would have been a lot tougher and scarier without the help of the Chamber, instead his future is looking brighter and promising but he knows he still as a long way to go and he is still struggling with basic outgoings such as food and transport.
For anyone in Sam’s situation, he offers this advice: “Don’t get complacent. The worst thing you can do in the situation I was in is thinking: “I’m staying with a friend, people will help me out, there’s no rush”. I didn’t put in as much effort as I should have in my first week or so being homeless and found what little money I did have was gone by the time I got around to looking for a home. You have to keep trying until you find something”
Sam makes no secret that he is “pretty left-wing”, but the political lines did not exist when it came to helping a fellow person in need and help came from the right and the left in equal shares. “Politics in today’s society seems to do nothing but divide but this experience has shown me how it can equally bring people together.”
Speaking on this political unity, Luke Rodgers said: “To see a community of people so opposed in politics come together to support someone they’ve mostly never met was amazing.”
Sam still isn’t completely out of hot water but he has promised that as soon as he is financially stable he will be donating an equal amount to what has been donated to him, to local charities.
In the meantime, Sam is still struggling when it comes to food, transport to work and even basic household necessities. If you would like to donate to help Sam manage through the next month you can send him money via PayPal at paypal.me/PhantomType1.
If you are facing financial difficulty, please get in touch with the Citizen’s Advice Bureau who offer free and impartial advice. In England, the number to call is 03444 111 444, in Wales 03444 70 20 20.