Today is Halloween; as carved pumpkins and jelly sweets fill doorsteps, as children dress up to go trick-or-treating with their neighbours and teenagers head to Halloween parties, a scary number of young people across London will be facing another terrifying night out on the streets.
Pumpkins carved by young people at NHYC for Halloween.
Last night, our Street Outreach team met with three young people who are sleeping rough, with no bed or roof over their heads. One of them was kicked out of Home Office accommodation as soon as they got their right-to-remain-status, with no housing, support or employment. Another who had lost a retail job after taking statutory sick leave due to an injury, and a third who’s relationship breakdown with their family has left them on the streets. After giving each young person the details of how to get to New Horizon Youth Centre for food, showers and warm clothes, our outreach team verify them on CHAIN – the database for all people sleeping out in London.
And with the release of the new rough sleeping statistics in London today, it appears that they are part of an alarming number of young rough sleepers within the capital these last three months. According to the new CHAIN statistics, 8% of people rough sleeping in London are aged 18-25, with 309 young people recorded July-September. Most worryingly, the data shows that young people are the age group with the highest increase in rough sleeping from earlier this year – rates are 43% higher than April-June.
With the Cost-of-Living crisis now biting hard and the cessation of the Home Office hotels pushing more young people onto the streets, this winter was already promising to be one of the hardest imaginable for young people across the city. The statistics released today confirm what we have been seeing for some time at the centre. Already 46% of young people coming into New Horizon Youth Centre are or have been sleeping rough and although July-September are usually quieter months for us, we are seeing a 69% increase in young people accessing our centre from numbers in January – March.
These numbers come as the Government reaffirms its election commitment to end rough sleeping by 2025. It is a commitment we welcome and we have been pleased to see last year’s new Rough Sleeping Strategy include a greater focus on young people as a recognised and growing group that need youth-specific solutions. But over a year on, these new statistics serve to remind us that the promises are yet to be realised. It is especially frustrating given the Governments own admission that 48% of all rough sleepers first did so before the age of 25. We therefore know that one of the single best ways to end rough sleeping is to stop young people being rough sleeping.
That is one of the many reasons why New Horizon Youth Centre has joined 110 other youth homelessness organisations to call for a national strategy to end youth homelessness. We need political parties to step up, we need young homeless people to stop being ignored and we need solutions to be championed and funded.
Solutions like our Youth Hub, which received support from the Mayor of London, have a huge success rate. Young people who may have been faced with another night on the streets have temporary, secure accommodation for up to 60 days alongside housing, employment and pastoral support. This safe and stable environment gives young people the opportunity to get their life on track and ensure their potential has a home.
And whilst the release of today’s statistics are just numbers on a report, it is essential that we do not lose sight of the real lives that lie behind them. When the young people we met last night attend our day centre today they will find that there are solutions: they may be offered emergency accommodation in a safe hostel or hotel and referred to our Youth Hub; they may get a housing appointment with No Second Night Out, run by St Mungo’s; they may be supported to advocate for their housing with their council.
But most importantly of all, we hope these three young people will never have to face another night on the streets.
If you would like to get involved, please sign our petition for a national strategy to end youth homelessness.