Two youth homelessness charities have warned the government it needs to ‘make good’ on its promise to support all rough sleepers following another steep rise in the number of young people forced to sleep rough in London during the pandemic.
Centrepoint and New Horizon Youth Centre made the call following the release of the CHAIN report, which provides information about people seen rough sleeping by outreach teams in London.
The report revealed that 3,307 people had been seen sleeping rough between October and December 2020 with 1,582 people sleeping rough for the first time.
The numbers also showed a year-on-year increase for the third consecutive quarter of 16-25-year-olds sleeping rough, from 287 in 2019 to 300 this year (5%).
Over the course of 2020, around one in ten (9%) of those found sleeping rough were under 25. Many more were ‘sofa surfing’ or staying in dangerous situations to avoid the streets.
Dylan (not his real name) became homeless early on in 2020 at the age of 22.
Due to pressures on family relationships, he was forced to sleep rough and stay with friends. He approached his council but didn’t receive help. After getting in touch with NHYC in October of 2020 and receiving emergency housing support in hostels, he moved into accommodation in time for Christmas.
He is much happier and is working on his mental health and his passion for media and videography.
Phil Kerry, New Horizon’s CEO said: ‘It is heart-breaking that the pandemic continues to drive young people onto the streets.
‘It is even worse that particularly vulnerable under-25s increasingly end up sleep homeless this winter: we are seeing double the number of young women than last year and two-thirds of those sleeping rough were aged 21 or younger. Often there is nowhere for them to go.
‘What we’re seeing daily is just the tip of the iceberg. We’re enormously concerned about the hundreds of young people slipping through cracks in current provision.
‘They don’t just need emergency accommodation; they need it to be safe and appropriate for their age. We know this can and must be done. The impact of rough sleeping on young people’s lives is enormous, and so the investment needed for youth-specific solutions is relatively small.’
Responding to the findings Paul Noblet, Centrepoint’s head of public affairs, said:
‘At the start of the pandemic the government stepped up and invested in local service to get everyone in. That was the right call then, and it’s the right call now.
‘Regional mayors, local councils, and charities want to provide age-appropriate accommodation for rough sleepers but to do that we need ministers to dip into the coffers again to keep everyone safe whilst vaccines are rolled out.
‘That means providing more funding to ensure that night shelters and homelessness services can accommodate everyone and reflect the needs of different age groups as, for many young people, the prospect of all age accommodation leads them to stay out on the streets.’
New Horizon Youth Centre, which supports thousands of young people facing homelessness in London, also revealed that between October and December they were unable to find immediate accommodation for 55% of the rough sleeping young people approaching them for support for the first time.
The charity said that, in the run-up to Christmas, they were forced to find their own money to put 21 young people with nowhere else to go into backpacker’s hostels.
After a breakdown in the relationship with her sister, Danni (not her real name) was left without anywhere to stay at 22.
The stress of becoming homeless led to her having to drop out of college and despite working, private rented accommodation wasn’t accessible.
After staying with friends for a while, she found New Horizon online and received emergency accommodation support over Christmas. She is now housed and is accessing support to get her life back on track.
Last month Centrepoint warned that homelessness charities were facing a ‘winter like no other’ when the charity’s research revealed three-quarters of youth homelessness charities expected to see an increase in the numbers of young people sleeping rough in the coming months. While fewer than a third (31%) of organisations surveyed thought there was sufficient support available for rough sleepers in their area.
The shortfall of funding for all age homelessness services in London is estimated to be around £20 million.
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has been contacted for comment.
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