In the twelve months prior to the pandemic 120,000 young people across the UK approached their local council for help because they were homeless or at risk.
In the year since the first lockdown, “Everyone In” has confirmed there are no real barriers when it comes to mobilising and funding schemes to safeguard rough sleepers. The challenge now is to turn this into long-term measures to end youth homelessness for good.
We can never completely remove the spectre of homelessness from the lives of young people. For a myriad of reasons there will always be some young people who need our support.
However, at Centrepoint we believe it is entirely possible to drastically reduce the number of young people who find themselves homeless to such a point where no young person needs to sleep in an unsafe place. This is why in our own new strategic plan we have committed ourselves to work with others to end youth homelessness by 2037 – the year someone born today turns 16 and could find themselves in need of our support.
So how do we do it?
Firstly, we need to prevent young people from reaching the point that they become homeless. This means recognising that solving homelessness is broader than solving rough sleeping. We have to narrow the gaps at those crucial points of transition in young people’s lives - whether that’s leaving care, leaving home, or leaving custody – whilst at the same time giving vulnerable young people the academic and practical skills they need to live independently.
Secondly, we need to make sure that there is an immediate safe place for young people to access if they reach the point of housing crisis. That means acknowledging that all-age hostels are inappropriate, and sometimes dangerous, for young people. Charities and councils need the funding to provide young person specific services. If we invest in youth homelessness we will avoid storing up problems for individuals and our communities further down the line.
And thirdly, we need to ensure that each young person in a hostel or other supported housing service can move into a permanent home as soon as they are ready to live independently. With changes to the Local Housing Allowance the government has made this aim more achievable, but there is still a long way to go ensure sufficient supply of affordable housing.
None of these ideas are new, but we do need a new approach to achieving them. Youth homelessness is a societal challenge, and we need organisations and government at all levels to work together.
Building a movement
In developing our new strategy we recognise that it is only through acting in concert across public, charitable and private sectors and society that our vision of ending youth homelessness by 2037 can be achieved.
Centrepoint will directly deliver innovative and exemplary services for young people across the country. From our national helpline (0808 800 0661), to homeless prevention services in Manchester, mental health support in Barnsley, parent and child services in Sunderland, routes into employment in Bradford, and Independent Living schemes in London. We will use the insight from this provision to encourage others to expand what works and to campaign and influence for change across society.
We will partner with and support other organisations who provide interventions that tackle youth homelessness, and build a movement of organisations and individuals who can bring their collective clout to end youth homelessness.
During the past twelve months we have seen what working together can achieve. So let’s work together, and act now to ensure that the next generation of young people don’t have to experience homelessness.
Robert Cade is director of strategy and performance at Centrepoint