Jackson Marks was hit hard by the pandemic when he was unable to continue running his tiling business and his partner of two years ended their relationship.
As the first lockdown hit in March, Jackson had to move out of the home he shared with his partner in Crediton and couldn’t move in with family or friends due to the pandemic, Devon Live reports.
Usually he would have been able to rely on a roof over his head at his dads home but his father had to shield after being diagnosed with a terminal illness.
With nowhere else to go, Jackson pitched a tent in his dad’s garden and powered through for two months.
Before lockdown Jackson was running a successful tiling business earning up to £4,000 a month.
However, due to the pandemic, as well as believing he had a driving ban due to an insurance issue, he was unable to work and did not have enough money to move into private rented accommodation.
He recalled: “I looked into one-bed housing but it’s so expensive and I couldn’t afford it on Universal Credit. Once I’d have paid my rent it would have left me skint for the next three weeks. I had never claimed benefits in my life.
“I looked for work online and rung up agencies, but I just need the world to come out of lockdown.
“As I couldn’t move in with my dad, I put up a tent outside the kitchen window of his ground floor flat.
“It was a nightmare and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. It was really depressing. I was caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.
“The weather was boiling and I’d wake up melting in the tent. I had nowhere to shower so I probably smelt quite a bit.
“My dad let me use his shower a couple of times but I had to anti-bac the whole bathroom after using it. It was too much effort and too much of a worry for my dad.”
Food and electricity was not a problem for Jackson because his dad would provide a ‘window service’ of food direct from the kitchen into the garden, and hung an extension lead out of the window for Jackson to charge up his mobile phone and laptop.
With no end in sight and fearing his housing situation would remain the same throughout lockdown, Jackson realised he would have to ask for help.
It was something he had never had to do before, but says it ended up being the best decision he could have made.
He was offered a place at the Amber Foundation – an independent charity that supports homeless and unemployed young people to turn their lives around – as it was the only space they had available.
Jackson said: “The staff at East Devon District Council were amazing and it was them who put me in touch with the Amber Foundation.
“I turned the offer down three times as I’m not really the usual person to go to a homeless project, but in the end I accepted and lived there for six weeks.
“I did a music course while I was there and was then able to move into a shared house at YMCA Exeter Supported Accommodation.
“Before lockdown I had never claimed benefits as I had been earning money since I was 13, and didn’t even know supported accommodation existed.
“My jaw hit the floor when I found out what was available. I really needed it.
“It was very hard asking for help but sometimes you’ve just got to hold your hands up and then say thank you.
“It was nice to know the support is there when you need it.”
The YMCA in Exeter (Image: Google)
Jackson currently lives in supported YMCA accommodation in the Newcourt area of Exeter.
He said: “I can’t fault it in the slightest. It’s been my saving grace for the past six months.
“I’m madly grateful to the YMCA, the Amber Foundation, East Devon District Council, and everyone who has helped me along the way. If you feel like you are struggling, don’t be afraid to ask someone for help.”
Jackson is planning to move out shortly because today he has been told the good news that he has been successful in applying for a new job as a maintenance manager at a care home in Taunton.
His plan is to rent a room in the town until he moves to Wales in September to study business management and finance at Aberystwyth University.
Jackson said: “I have worked for quite extensive periods of my life, but I have come to realise I’m pretty bad with my money so it’s time to go to university and better myself.
“In some way or another I will benefit from the business knowledge when I start back up again with a new business.
“I taught myself to be a tiler by watching videos, so I know I can get a degree. I have said to a couple of the YMCA staff that when I’m rich and have a big yacht I will invite them all to a yacht party.
“You have to dream big, especially in these perilous times.”