Young people are at particular risk of homelessness and insecure housing. Both academic researchers and frontline agencies have set out the complex reasons that combine to expose many young people to vulnerable housing situations. Organisations like Centrepoint highlight not only the causes of youth homelessness, but detail how these factors lead to a different experience for each and every young person that they support.
We can begin to get some idea of the extent of youth homelessness by looking at the number of young people who make a request for help to local authorities. Although there’s inevitably a bit of a lag with the availability of statistics, Centrepoint provide a databank so that it’s possible look at the situation across the local authorities that operate within the Yorkshire North & East Methodist District. To give one example, in 2018/2019, 169 young people approached Harrogate Borough Council with a request for help with homelessness. Notably, all of them were offered support by this authority, and 119 had positive outcomes, including housing. Whilst local authorities have a key role to play in tackling this issue, however, a characteristic feature of youth homelessness is that much of it remains hidden, and does not show up in official figures.
Across our own District organisations like SASH do incredible work with young people who are experiencing homelessness. Rather than providing hostel accommodation, SASH draw on a network of volunteer hosts who provide either emergency Nightstop accommodation or supported lodgings for young people who need a longer term option. The accommodation provides a safe environment in the hosts’ own homes, where one to one support can also be offered by a SASH project worker. A number of young people have shared their experiences of dealing with homelessness as well as moving on and making new opportunities via SASH.
Scarborough is the busiest area for SASH, and where they have the highest number of young people in supported accommodation. The scale of youth homelessness across our District is such that SASH currently has a shortage of hosts, especially in the Scarborough area, and new volunteers are always welcome. Although SASH work with people up to the age of 25, a statistic that gives pause is that about half the young people they work with are aged 16 to 17. A stark fact remains that frontline agencies that help young people with homelessness first come into contact with many of them when they are still officially children. One of the main problems with addressing youth homelessness is its invisibility. The hidden nature of youth homelessness leads people to believe that there isn’t a problem within their own communities. But whether we see it or not, it’s there, and young people need our help like never before.
This is part of a series of blogs in the run-up to the Sleep Out For Homelessness event on January 23rd 2021 being run by our District Children and Youth team. Find out more about the Sleep Out for Homelessness event here: www.yorkshirenemethodist.org/district-youth/sleep-out