For 8 years Homeless Link has carried out research into the particular reasons young people become homelessness, the support available to them, and areas where improvements should be made.
The key findings from the most recent (2021) report are:-
Throughout the pandemic young people at risk of homelessness were particularly vulnerable to volatile housing situations. In particular the impact lockdown had on removing sofa surfing as an option for many people making their homelessness more visible, alongside the impact and pressure lockdown had on increasing family breakdown.
"COVID-19 means those who previously sofa surfing in friends' house can no longer do so"
"Initially when the pandemic hit referral went down as families who were at breaking point held on to their young people. As it became clear that the pandemic was going to last increased tensions and fear about [lockdown] non-compliance lead to increased parental evictions and end of sofa surfing arrangements"
Welfare reform continues to be a significant concern for service providers: In particular the five week wait before first payment was flagged by 98% of respondents as having a negative impact, with monthly payments in arrears (87%) and removal of automatic entitlements to housing costs for 18-21 year olds (85%) the next two areas of greatest concern.
Responding homelessness accommodation providers reported a fairly equal split between male and females accessing their services, with 54% male and 42% female. This is a much more even split between the genders than is seen amongst the general single homeless population. Survey respondents over 50% reported that they had seen an increase in both male (56%) and female rough sleepers (51%) in their area over the past year.
Survey respondents reported that 22% of young people accessing their service were Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic, showing that young people from these backgrounds are disproportionately affected by homelessness. This is particularly true of young Black people who were over three times more likely to be at risk of, or experiencing homelessness than young White people.
53% of respondents reported that the young people engaged with their services required support related to not being in education, employment or training. With 50% of young people lacking literacy and numeracy skills highlighting the stark educational need amongst the cohort.
Homelessness service providers reported that 64% of young people accessing their support experienced mental health challenges. This is a significant increase on the reported 35% from the 2018 Young and Homeless report. Again respondents highlighted how much the pandemic and associated lockdowns had impacted on mental health needs.
98% of respondents indicated that there had been an increase in those with multiple disadvantage presenting to their services over the past year, and in particular related to complex mental health needs.
Overall respondents reported that the level of support needs amongst young people continued to increase across all areas, and that whilst the pandemic has exacerbated some of these issues, many of them were already present concerns.