Today New Horizon Youth Centre, along with founding partners LandAid, The Progress Foundation and Greater Change are launching the Young Londoners Winter Relief scheme for young people facing homelessness.
Every year thousands of young people become homeless through no fault of their own. They are united by a determination to get back on track with their lives and fulfil their potential. But the cost of living crisis has put a massive barrier in their way. While a political leadership contest ran for two months, young people risked losing their home and many more were forced to choose between eating or paying their bills. The contest may now be over, but the cost of living crisis is only just beginning and our partnership of youth homelessness charities are longer willing to wait for Government to act.
TheYoung Londoners Winter Relief scheme offers individual cash grants of up to £300 to young people to meet their spiralling costs of living and ensure they are not pushed back into homelessness. There is no expectation for grants to be repaid at any point. The scheme launches with an initial £25,000 and following a pilot period will actively seek to grow the number of young people it can support.
One of the young people we support, Cole (21) explains what is at stake: “I ended up on the streets when my family forced me out after I lost my job. I had managed to hold on to it for long while struggling with my mental health. After finding New Horizon, they supported me to find my new home. I’m lucky as it’s self-contained and it feels a safe space to recover my wellbeing. At the moment I get £265.31 a month from my Universal Credit Allowance; I think that’s just under £70 less than what over-25s get. In recent months I’ve started to struggle with making ends meet. It’s hard to pay for food and essentials on top of my bills. My case worker at New Horizon and I have looked at this. Once energy prices rise in October, I’ll owe a £186 monthly bill for gas and light. That’s 70% of all the money I have each month! I’ve become really anxious about this, afraid I might lose my home and am dreading the winter ahead. This new scheme will hopefully help me get through the worst.”
The grants are available to young people supported by the London Youth Gateway, the pan-London partnership we lead. Last year the London Youth Gateway supported over 3,600 young Londoners to prevent or solve their homelessness for good.
Time and again, we witness young people’s tenacity to bounce back quickly and safely in times of crisis and homelessness. But this time a different and even bigger challenge faces them: young people are bearing the brunt of the rising living and energy costs. They receive a quarter less in Universal Credit than over-25s and the National Living Wage is lower for 16-22-year-olds. They see their accommodation costs rise with landlords increasing the bills and asking for unaffordable deposits or fees which shut young people out of the rental market. Without an immediate response to the current crisis, thousands of young people will be pushed back into experiences of homelessness they have worked so hard to avoid.
In the words of Phil Kerry, our CEO: “The Government may not have been willing to act so far but in our work we see every day that an urgent response is needed now. We know that this cost of living crisis will lead to the worst possible consequences for young people who are already dealt with hardship, and now also have to battle an extra barrier to reach independence and find a safe place they can call home. We are proud to be working with our partners on the Young Londoners Winter Relief scheme, which will buy time while waiting for structural solutions, providing a vital lifeline for young people who have no safety net.”
We know that this new scheme is but a sticking plaster on gaping systemic crack. But we also know that we are not prepared to stand back and wait for solutions that may not come in time. Action breeds further action and so we are making a start, knowing that others will join and as we buy time and a vital lifeline for young people who have no safety net.
If you would like to support young people facing homelessness this winter, please donate to us directly.