Thursday, 23 May 2024
Thursday, 23 May 2024

120 Charities raise alarm on spiralling youth homelessness crisis

HOMELESSNESS is a direct outcome of the systems that are meant to protect us all from failing. But young people are often not part of the conversations when we talk about homelessness, despite making up a significant number of those in crisis.

Young people are often invisible to authorities and services, more likely to be ‘hidden homeless,’ sleeping on a friend’s sofa or alternating between different short-term, unsuitable accommodations. Fortunately, this isn’t an unsolvable problem, the collective of over 100 charities who are calling for government attention to this crisis are sharing positive, evidence-based solutions that could sustainably solve homelessness for the young people they work with every day.

According to recent Centrepoint research, the number of young people approaching their council as homeless or about to become homeless has risen to 135,800 for 2022-23. This equates to 372 per day, and a new young person facing the harm of homelessness every four minutes. Of those, 20,200 were in London: that’s enough to fill every seat on a double-decker bus every day. Centrepoint’s research also found that 35% of these young people weren’t assessed at all when they approached their local authority for help. Many are told to go home, even though this may not be a safe option.

A young person supported by New Horizon said about the contact they had with their council: 

“I feel like they’re not trying. Even the way they speak they’re, like, ‘Oh you just got kicked out from your mum’s house’. They act like it’s not a big deal what I’m going through. It just showed that they didn’t care.”

In a nation struggling with a housing crisis, young people’s experiences are often ignored. There simply isn’t enough suitable, affordable and youth-appropriate housing. Young people are the most likely to be in low-paid, insecure roles, and have the lowest savings and financial support. And with no ready guarantor to secure rental housing if family relationships have broken down, young people can be left with no options, and at serious risk of exploitation. This picture is only exacerbated for young people of minoritised communities.

Simon Wild, Housing Advice Worker at New Horizon Youth Centre said:

“I’d been working for a long time with a young person who was working full time. Eventually, they got a flat viewing and the landlord said ‘So that’s a year’s rent in advance.’ I’ve been hearing one year, I’ve been hearing six months. Who can afford that? This is the worst I’ve seen at New Horizon; homelessness is off the scale.”

One of the charities leading the charge, New Horizon Youth Centre – a one-stop shop for the young people who are unhoused or unsafe in London – know these figures are likely half of the actual number, as only 51% have ever approached their council when they arrive at the service. Over the summer months, when they are normally at their quietest, they reported a 69% increase in demand by daily users and a 46% increase in rough sleeping. These troubling trends also included a massive increase in under-18s and refugees.

Phil Kerry, CEO of New Horizon Youth Centre states:

“We’ve been on the frontline supporting the young and homeless for over half a century. We’ve never seen levels of need this high, and we’ve never had fewer options available to keep people safe and housed. This winter is the worst we’ve ever faced. The severity of the situation requires a bolder and youth-specific response. Adopting a youth homelessness strategy, based on the evidence from the sector, would directly transform the lives and futures of young people in the UK, something any government would be proud of.”

These stark numbers come as the Government reaffirms its election commitment to end rough sleeping by 2025. Thanks to efforts from homelessness campaigners, last year’s updated Rough Sleeping Strategy included a greater focus on young people as a recognised and growing group that needs youth-specific solutions. But over a year on, these new statistics serve to remind us that the promises are yet to be realised. It is especially frustrating given the Government’s own admission that 54% of all rough sleepers first did so before the age of 25. We therefore know that one of the single best ways to end rough sleeping is to stop young people ever needing to sleep rough.

That is one of the many reasons why a collective of over 100 youth and youth homelessness charities have united to call on the government to adopt and implement a national strategy to end youth homelessness. The strategy prioritises three key areas; prevention, finances and housing and lays out specific updates and evidence-based solutions that the government should support in order to tackle the crisis.

The collective of homelessness and youth organisations have united to call on those in power and seeking to be in power to put young people first, and to deliver a strategy to end youth homelessness ahead of the next general election.

Join the campaign for a #PlanForThe136k by signing the petition here: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/642986. The petition has already been supported by the likes of Centrepoint, YMCA England & Wales, UK Youth and Depaul UK. They need 100,000 signatures to be considered for debate in Parliament and get this crucial issue on the political agenda.

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