Romario is a young person currently being supported by YMCA Thames Gateway who relies on Housing Benefit to pay for much of his rent. He says Housing Benefit has given him the springboard he needed to find work.
Growing up, Romario had a difficult relationship with his dad. From the age of 15, he found himself the victim of increasing levels of violence and, following a family disagreement at 18, was finally kicked out and made homeless.
He says: “I had a difficult relationship with my family but mainly my dad. I was playing football for Leyton Orient but he wanted me to go down a different direction.
“It ended up with us fighting and, when he thought I stole money, he threw me out.”
Romario sofa surfed with various members of his family for a number of months but once he had exhausted all his options for a roof over his head, came to YMCA Romford for support.
Despite depending on both Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) and Housing Benefit when he first arrived, determined not to live on benefits alone, he was able to use this period to rebuild his life.
Romario now works three jobs as an after-school assistant, pre-school assistant and children’s party host despite earning little more than he would have done accessing JSA.
He says: “My future without Housing Benefit would be an uncertain future and I wouldn’t be the person I am now without it.
“It’s a springboard that’s pushing me down a path I want to go down and not a path I don’t want to go down. It’s pushing me into a more independent path.”
He adds: “I wouldn’t be where I am today without YMCA. It puts a smile on my face thinking about what I’ve done.”
Read our Uncertain Futures research here on the impact of Housing Benefit cuts for 18 to 21-year-olds.
Sign up to support our manifesto where we ask for Housing Benefits to be protected here.