The final data recording rough sleeping in 2020-21 was released this morning. While London overall saw a decrease in numbers, we are worried about the increase of young people who were street homeless this winter. 10% of those with no other option than sleeping rough are under the age of 25 and this has remained high throughout the entire pandemic. We need to do more together to tackle  the continued disproportion of young people amongst London’s most desperate demographic.

As we reported in our Winter Snapshot paper, at New Horizon we saw a 20% increase in young people referred to us that were already street homeless and Centrepoint’s excellent report ‘A Year Like No Other’ clearly tracks how the pandemic has hit young people hardest, and is driving a rise in youth homelessness. In recent weeks local authorities in London have been telling us that they are now seeing a steep spike in under-25s seeking help from their councils around homelessness. More young people are clearly in acute housing need; many end up on the streets.

This is a difficult picture to come to terms with and highlights how young people must be central to Covid recovery planning and homelessness strategies. Youth homelessness is a different experience and needs a different response.

We see partnership as the key element to creating solutions. We’ve been working with London Councils, the Greater London Authority and Depaul to deliver Hotel 1824, a pilot project to model what best practice could look like for youth-specific emergency accommodation in London. We’re calling for this this to be part of an end-to-end rough sleeping pathway tailored to young people. Together with our London Youth Gateway partners we are working closely with London boroughs to address the increasing demand through prevention, accommodation access and capacity-building. And with other youth homelessness organisations in London and nationally, we are advocating that young people facing homelessness and rough sleeping become a priority for resources, policies and systems.

As Marike van Harskamp, Policy and Partnership Manager at New Horizon, explains: “Young people facing homelessness already struggled to get the support they need. Now the worrying steep rise in homelessness and rough sleeping amongst under-25s in London also shines a light on the devastating impact of Covid on this generation. We’re encouraged by the commitment of the Greater London Authority and London boroughs to work together with the sector on solutions. But London can’t do this alone. It needs government to step up its support and investment in youth homelessness and young people, so that they won’t be left behind permanently in the aftermath of the pandemic.”

Today, like every day, our teams at New Horizon work hard to support under-25s in need, as our recent BBC video shows. But today the rough sleeping figures show that there is now a great opportunity, and even greater necessity, to include young people and youth specific provision firmly in immediate and long term next steps.

“Rough sleeping, it’s not something anyone wants, but I didn’t have a choice. At first I was very frightened, it was really cold, really dark and uncomfortable. I just didn’t really know what services were out there and that there were people who could provide accommodation for you.” – Laurence