With high levels of youth homelessness, Jeremy Corbyn MP visited the centre to speak with homeless and vulnerable young people and front line staff about sofa surfing, the problems they face and the support we offer.
Sitting on our famous red sofa, Mr Corbyn listened to young people who use the centre and who shared their experiences of the harsh realities of homelessness and the obstacles in their journey to independent lives. They talked about the dangers of sofa-surfing and what it’s like having to leave the family home because it's safer to sleep on the street.
The young people raised awareness of the huge problem of hidden homelessness for them and their peers. They are disproportionately affected by the housing crisis but are not visible on the streets. More than 75% of the 16-21 year olds we support at New Horizon Youth Centre are 'hidden homeless' and forced to sofa surf.
Because many young people actually manage to juggle homelessness with work or education, they explained to Mr Corbyn about how their low, unpredictable wages simply don’t match the high rents in London. New Horizon Youth Centre is then very often the only option available to them to get breakfast or a hot lunch. Mr Corbyn also heard about topics like problems of saving for a deposit, difficulties with Universal Credit, the importance of housing benefit, and the need of young refugees to feel welcomed and supported.
They discussed how solving their homelessness becomes so much more difficult because their lives do not fit the borough restrictions of much local authority support and accommodation. Mr Corbyn mentioned he understands the need for a “pan-London approach to youth homelessness” and that “homeless young people are homeless not of their own fault.”
Young people also gave Mr Corbyn a tour through the centre and explained the many different ways ways in which we provide a safe space and helps them with specialist advice services, help to access housing, our Project Vista accommodation provision, employment and training support, counselling and much more. A couple challenged Mr Corbyn to a game of table football, so of course there was talk about Arsenal. Another showcased his music in our studio, proving that he’ll soon be competing with Stormzy in the charts.
The visit ended with a group photograph on the red sofa which represents the problem of 'hidden homelessness’ amongst young people, who are left with no other option than to sofa surf, and our #sofachange campaign.
We want young people to be involved in the decisions affecting their lives and future. We make sure we put youth engagement and participation at the heart of our work, such as via our weekly youth forum which influences our services. Young people at the centre have previously created their own Homeless Young People's Election Manifesto (as featured in The Guardian), hosted a Q&A with our local MP, and organised London mayoral hustings with cross-party representatives. As one young person said: “It just feels so much better to be able to speak ourselves instead of others talking on our behalf”.
If you want to get in touch or share your thoughts just use the hashtag #NHYC