New data collected from local authorities across the North West, by the UK’s leading youth homelessness charity, Centrepoint, reveals an estimated 3,019 young people aged 16 – 25 will be or are at risk of homelessness this Christmas, with most facing dangerous choices in a bid to find somewhere safe to spend the night.
Instead of being surrounded by festive excitement, these vulnerable young people will feel scared, unsafe and like no-one cares about them.
Just across Greater Manchester Combined Authority an estimated 1,351 young people are homeless or at risk of homelessness. The crisis is unfolding across the country and these figures lay bare the worrying number of young people with nowhere safe to sleep this Christmas.
In addition to the data collected from local authorities, Centrepoint spoke to more than 200 young people, each of whom have experienced homelessness. The responses revealed some of the daunting challenges young people face.
It’s not easy to measure the life-long emotional and health impacts homelessness has on a young, vulnerable mind. The latest research shows how scared and alone many young people feel while homeless:
72% of homeless young people said that homeless had a negative impact on their mental health
40% said it had a negative impact on their ability to access or sustain education and 69% of homeless young people felt that no-one cared about them and 67% of homeless young people felt lonely while homeless
Feelings of shame and isolation are contributing factors to why many young people feel like they can’t tell anyone they are homeless. As a result, many are forced to make some impossible choices:
33% of homeless young people have spent the night in a park because they had nowhere else to stay and 17% have done so more than once.
27% of homeless young people have spent the night in a tent because they had nowhere else to stay and 10% of homeless young people have spent the night on a night bus because they had nowhere else to stay
‘Hidden homelessness’ continues to be a major issue. Many young people don’t believe they fit the stereotype of a ‘homeless’ person because they may have a roof over their heads for the night – despite whether it’s safe or not.
73% of homeless young people have sofa-surfed because they had nowhere else to stay
37% of homeless young people have stayed in an abusive home with a parent or guardian because they had nowhere else to stay.
Catherine had a normal family life until she was eight, when the relationship with her dad became extremely volatile. It got to the point where the violence and chaos in the house became unbearable. Because of the abuse, Catherine developed an eating disorder. She ended up in hospital on many occasions. Catherine started to struggle to cope with the outside world. Wanting to escape, she started drinking, taking drugs, and hanging around with the wrong people. With nowhere to go, Catherine turned to sofa surfing with strangers or sleeping on the streets.
Thanks to the strong relationship with her support worker Lorna, Catherine felt like she had a safe home where she could start to recover. Now Catherine is living in her own place and planning her next steps in life.
She said: “Lorna and the other support workers at Centrepoint were amazing. I never thought, me, a homeless girl, could do the things I’ve done. I want to go into schools and tell kids all about homelessness and mental health. I want to tell them young people on the streets are living in total chaos. They need more than a room. They need someone to give them their self-esteem back. It’s all about supporting the individual to have a future.”
Centrepoint CEO, Seyi Obakin, comments, “In the last 50 years, thanks to our supporters, Centrepoint has been there for thousands of young people when they had nowhere else to turn. However, for every person we reach, there are hundreds more who need support. With the problem of youth homeless growing, we need to pull together and take urgent action to protect vulnerable young people and make sure every young person has a safe place to call home and the future they deserve.”
Centrepoint are holding a Sleep Out at Victoria Baths in Manchester on Thursday 28th November. Proceeds raised from the event will help support local young people in turning their lives around by gaining essential life skills, tackling physical and mental health issues and helping them to move into education or employment.