By Phil Kerry, Chief Executive of NHYC
And so here it is again: World Homeless Day. 10/10 but the state of homelessness in the UK is anything but full marks. At New Horizon Youth Centre, we dream of a day when World Homeless Day can act as a reminder of the problem we once solved; the commitment we made as a society to successfully end homelessness together; politics working hand in hand with the private, public and not for profit sectors to ensure no young person would ever go without a home. 2023 is not that year.
Indeed, as I write we couldn’t be further from that milestone. The growing scale of the issue is like nothing I have seen in my five and half years at New Horizon and the worst that my colleague, Rhona, has seen in nearly a quarter century here. The overlapping Covid and cost-of-living crises compounds an already impossibly difficult time for young people with nowhere to go. That is why over 129,000 young people approached their council as homeless last year and why we have seen more than double the number of daycentre users than this time last year.
And yet it doesn’t have to be like this. The scale of the issue may be unknown, but the solutions are certainly not. That is why we have joined up with over 100 leading youth and homelessness organisations to call for political parties to adopt a #PlanForThe129k and ensure there is cross-departmental support in Government to better prevent youth homelessness and make sure young people have the financial and housing security they need to reach independence and fulfil their potential.
World Homeless Day also marks the end of the Labour Party Conference and with it the end to all three parties’ big political moments in the sun. We have been watching these closely for signs of change and will continue to hold whoever forms a government to account on the changes we need to see in society. Homelessness requires a whole systems approach, and we are very clear that the buck needs to stop with them, but we also know that we need to look to ourselves too.
The role we all play in ending youth homelessness isn’t clear. That’s why we created our 10 Days to Take Charge of Change campaign back in 2018, which asks our supporters to Do, Discuss and Donate. It is why World Homeless Day – the last day of the campaign each year – has offered a moment of hope in the most challenging of times and why we are again inspired this year by how many of you have come forward to play your part. We’ve had breakfasts from Dishoom, cooking classes with Google and created newspapers with The Guardian. We’ve joined podcasts, shared our message at lunch and learns, and had blogs from young people who want to share their story. And so many of you have come forward to donate, fundraise and ensure we have the funds to continue our life changing work.
The world is a fast changing and challenging place for us all right now, but the centre’s message has always been one of hope. Whatever obstacles the world puts in front of young people, they navigate them. The harder the challenges, the more young people are motivated to overcome them. We are reminded daily that you should never underestimate the potential of young people. Together we will always find a way.
Thank you for joining us in the fight against youth homelessness.