Did you know that an estimated 83,000 young people in Britain have experienced homelessness in the past year?
This is three times the number of reported government figures, and the true extent of the issue is thought to be due to the rising numbers of ‘hidden homeless.’ This includes young people who ‘sofa surf’ and those who do not receive assistance from their local authority (many are turned away because they do not meet ‘priority’ criteria) – meaning they are missed out from national statistics. The numbers of rough-sleepers are also rising, and recent figures suggests that a staggering 1 in 7 people aged 16-25 have slept on the streets at some point in the last year. These figures are rising.
Recent welfare cuts have disproportionately affected 16-25s and this age group are more likely to have their benefits sanctioned than other jobseekers are. Whilst this is intended to discourage young people from becoming long-term unemployed, the reality is that young people struggle with a variety of complex needs, and this age group is having to struggle with a variety of additional pressures – not knowing where they’ll be sleeping that night is a significant barrier to getting themselves employed.
Here at Making The Leap, we’ve noticed an alarming number of our young people have at some point experienced homelessness in their lives. Whilst we are not an organisation that directly tackles this issue, services that help young people into employment have been shown to prevent homelessness, and our programmes are an essential piece of the puzzle when it comes to equipping them with the confidence and self-esteem that homelessness often strips away. We have decided to draw attention to the issue of youth homelessness, to highlight a growing issue affecting many of the young people we serve.
Some key facts around youth homelessness:
1. Young people are the most likely group to be living in poverty – and nearly half of all people staying in homeless accommodation are reported to be between the ages of 16-25. This is the same age group to which Making The Leap delivers our young adults programmes
2. Providers report that young people access services for an average of 16 months – and there is a real lack of services that are specifically targeted at this age group – though young people often have very complex needs.
3. If you are homeless at a young age, you’re more likely to experience homelessness at a later age, as well as other complex problems including mental health issues and drug use.
4. Parents or carers being no longer able or willing to accommodate them is the most common cause of young people having nowhere to live.
5. A significant number of homeless youth (65%) are in education or employment – in spite of this, homelessness unsurprisingly acts as a real barrier to young people who are looking for employment.
CASE STUDY: Louise
21-year-old Making The Leap Fellow Louise¹ was just 13 when she first experienced homelessness. After her mother was sectioned, she found herself staying with a friend of her mum’s suddenly one night. From then onwards, she moved from place to place, each week going to school from another person’s house. Louise remembers that from the moment she first left her home, she never felt comfortable in the space she was in.
In the years that followed, Louise remained without a permanent home. Though her mother recovered, they were evicted from their former home and spent time living in temporary accommodation, shared with a stranger. She finished school, getting good grades because she felt like she had to, but it wasn’t until years later that she realised the effect it had had on her own development. During her college years, she spent time living with a foster family, and then in a hostel.
Four years ago, she moved into her first permanent home since the day she left in year 8, but it’s only been in the last year that she’s finally felt comfortable, that she can relax in her own space, and is able to feel at home – feelings she hasn’t had since she was a child.
‘Homelessness is a feeling. It’s like living through that first week of university where you don’t feel settled and don’t know anyone, but imagine being somewhere like that for years, when you’re a child.
It has had an effect on me. The biggest part is the way I would judge a situation. I’m now quite mindful of what could happen and it makes me quite guarded. If you’ve constantly felt uncomfortable or lived in foster care, you always need to be on guard. The place you’re staying feels foreign and you never feel comfortable.
Because I’ve had to motivate myself in other areas of life, it’s made it quite hard to get to bigger places, because you’re constantly trying to look after yourself. I’m very wary of things and every decision I take is going to have an effect on my life, so I feel like I’m always having to make a conscious decision. I’ve had to learn about the adult world very quickly, so there’s stuff I’ve had to force myself to learn and I’ve not necessarily learnt it in the right way. Making The Leap has helped me because it’s nice to have people telling you you’re good enough.
I know the world doesn’t owe me stuff but I’ve missed out on a lot and I’ve experienced a lot, and I’ve compromised me growing as a person. I’ve learnt some valuable stuff at a young age though, like cooking and contacting Housing Associations.
I think everyone should have a home. Being homeless shouldn’t just be characterised by having a home. There’s children who are abused who don’t ever feel like they have a home to go to. People should have the right to come home and feel comfortable there. In 2016 nobody should be homeless.
In my career, I’d like to advocate for people and know the law inside out, advise people. If people are in a situation, if they’re stuck, I could help them so people know they’re not in this situation for long and that things can be ok. One day, I would also like to buy my own house because once I pay it off, I won’t be homeless and my children won’t ever be homeless.’
¹ Name Changed
Considering the circumstances she grew up with, Louise has done remarkably well to have achieved the qualifications she did, and we know she has the potential to go really far in life. People like Louise really highlight why we do what we do – because there are so many young people out there who have the talent, the drive and the intelligence to succeed, but who have grown up far quicker than their wealthier counterparts, or who have experienced issues like homelessness that has meant they have missed out on opportunities and experiences to help them develop their skills.
At Making The Leap, we are committed to providing holistic support to the 16-25 year olds who are experiencing worrying levels of deprivation such as homelessness, and our vision is to see them overcoming their circumstances and achieving careers that afford them the stability and security that many of them are currently lacking. Some of the ways we support them include signposting to services, counselling, career coaching and guidance, and building up their confidence levels and aspirations. We also help them into jobs that offer them an ongoing career path, with real progression, allowing them to build a successful future for themselves.
If you would like to help us continue to support our work, so that we can equip people like Louise with the skills they need to succeed, you can make a monthly donation by clicking on this link:
All of the figures quoted in the article were from the below sources. If you would like to read more around the issue of youth homelessness, these links offer some further information: