Youth homelessness campaign

If left unsupported, those who experience homelessness at a young age are at greater risk of becoming homeless and develop complex problems in later life.

young girl standing in the street

The issue

Young people with experiences of homelessness are one of the most vulnerable groups in society and continue to make up approximately half of the people accessing homelessness services in England. 

Homeless Link’s research has repeatedly shown that young people, aged 16-to-24, primarily become homeless because parents or caregivers are no longer willing, or able to accommodate them. In our most recent Young and Homeless 2018 research, family breakdown accounted for half (49%) of all youth homelessness.

Young people in face numerous challenges, which can potentially impact their transition to independence and adulthood, such as a disproportional risk of poverty and destitution, and discrimination in the housing and labour markets. Young people have been disproportionally impacted by welfare benefit reforms, with successive UK governments having reduced young people’s entitlements to social security.

Nearly 6 in 10 are not in education, employment or training; more than half lack the skills to live independently; substance misuse or mental health issues are not uncommon; over 90% of charities report that benefit sanctions have affected the ability of young people to access accommodation.

Research shows that, if left unsupported, those who experience homelessness at a young age are at greater risk of becoming homeless and develop complex problems in later life.

We must act to prevent young people becoming homeless and to ensure they are not denied the opportunities that most people take for granted.

The solution to youth homelessness

To close the door on youth homelessness, we need concerted action on several fronts

Prevention

  • All local authorities should adopt a positive pathway model to prevent teenagers leaving or losing their homes, and provide appropriate accommodation and services for those who do become homeless.
  • Free mediation, advice and support services must be available in every local authority area to families and young people at risk of homelessness.
  • Schools should play a key part in the prevention of homelessness through education work and early identification and appropriate referral of those young people at risk of homelessness.

Jobs

  • We recommend employers should offer work experience and training opportunities for homeless young people to help them gain the skills they need to secure apprenticeships and sustainable employment.
  • Targeted work experience placements (with a mentor if appropriate) should be available to all homeless young people.

Housing

  • A local single “front door” into services for vulnerable young people in housing should be established to ensure clarity, consistency and access to prevention and support services.
  • A wide range of affordable accommodation and support options should be available in local areas for both families and young people. This should include support attached to private rented accommodation, supported lodgings, nightstop services and independent flats.
  • Investment in timeout projects and suitable emergency accommodation to allow young people and their parents respite before relationships reach crisis point.

Health

  • Commissioners should seek expert advice when planning services to meet the needs of homeless young people

Safety net

  • Government should ensure that reform of the welfare system does not increase the hardships faced by young people and that investment in housing-related support services is protected. 
  • Investment in homelessness prevention and support services should continue so that local authorities can adequately meet their local need. 

Data

  • Government and local authorities to improve data recording and monitoring in order to help ascertain the scale of youth homelessness, monitor trends and observe the impact of prevention work.

Progress

For the past seven years, Homeless Link’s national study on youth homelessness has provided crucial evidence to inform policy and practice. By exploring key trends in youth homelessness and the availability and nature of accommodation options and support, this research makes an important contribution to the evidence base on youth homelessness in England.

Young and Homeless 2018 shows:

  • Around 40% of local authorities reported that the scale of youth homelessness had increased.  
  • Over half (55%) of responding homelessness services reported an increase in demand. 
  • 45% of providers and local authorities believed there had been in an increase in young men sleeping rough in their local area.  
  • Respondents identified a lack of affordable housing, a lack of supported accommodation, and welfare benefit reform as causing increases in youth homelessness.