New Horizon Youth Centre calls for pan-London strategic response
The plight of homeless and vulnerable young people is a cause for grave concern as we see numbers spiralling, more rough sleepers on the streets, and young people turning up at New Horizon Youth Centre in increasingly destitute situations. The young people we see, over 2,000 a year, do not end up homeless out of choice, and many have experienced such abuse, violence and neglect that staying at home is simply no longer an option.
We help many of these homeless young people to access suitable short and long-term accommodation, working closely with partners and providers, despite the current dearth of accommodation, prohibitive housing market and dwindling availability of emergency spaces in London. As highlighted by our director, Shelagh O’Connor, in The Guardian today, these young people’s housing need also impacts on their physical and mental health as well as their ability to gain employment, training or education, especially when they can’t access emergency beds.
In our youth forum yesterday, young people talked of what they do, or have done, when they have absolutely nowhere to stay for the night and no emergency accommodation is available. Answers varied from “sleeping in a hospital A&E” to “staying awake and walking around all night because it keeps you busy and warm, and it is safer.” On such occasions we sometimes decide that the safest option is to provide them with bus tickets.
According to Homeless Link’s Youth and Homeless 2014 report, just over 50% of people seeking homelessness support are 25 or younger. Yet young people are often left out of the strategic responses. Last year’s No Going Back report by the London Assembly, for instance, was disappointing in its lack of attention to youth homelessness. The young people we support tell us that they feel that “even when you are on the streets and vulnerable, they don’t care because you are over 18 and not in priority need.”
We think that an investment in our youth is the prudent and forward thinking course of action to take, preventing further deterioration and costs to society as a whole. We would like to see a coordinated, strategic, pan-London response to the problem faced by this group in the capital.
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