For the first time in a decade, homelessness has become a more urgent and visible issue. In England, the numbers of people sleeping rough has risen by 55% since 2010 with roughly 4000 people sleeping rough on any one night. Vulnerable young people are more at risk of homelessness than ever before.
Youth homelessness is often caused by a series of unfortunate events including relationship breakdowns with parents, carers or partners. Other personal problems like substance misuse or mental health issues combined with social factors, such as unemployment and rising housing costs, also make young people more at risk of homelessness. Many young people sofa-surf or sleep on night buses to keep safe and warm, while others turn to the council for housing. However, with these services in high demand, not everyone gets housing support when they need it. The reality of this is that that more and more young people are sleeping rough, putting them at risk of violence and abuse as well as drug or alcohol addiction.
Comic Relief has been working with organisations tackling homelessness in the UK since 1985, funding projects that help young people facing, or experiencing homelessness, to meet their basic and longer-term needs. Projects offer a range of holistic support, helping young people safely stay at home or access emergency and temporary accommodation, supported housing and support in the transition to independent living. They may also provide mental and physical health support, as well as mentoring, training, education, and employment opportunities.
Below are just some examples of the projects that we fund.
Depaul UK – London Get up & Go
Depaul UK found that 75% of the young people who rely on their help are out of education or work. To resolve young people’s homelessness, Depaul UK provide accommodation and a range of other services to support young people into independent living. Comic Relief funding enables Depaul to recruit, train and support volunteers to run their 'Get Up and Go' programme which provides positive activities and mentoring to young people. This programme equips young people with the skills that they need for independent living and the workplace, whilst underpinning their personal development, to give them the confidence and ability to move on from homelessness and achieve their goals.
The Wallich is a charity in Wales that tackles homelessness by helping people to get back into work. Part funded by Comic Relief, they have developed a six-month employability programme which provides intensive ‘on the job’ experience, industry-recognised qualifications and support with soft skills to equip participants with the experience they need to get a job. In addition to this, those who move into employment receive mentoring throughout their probationary period, helping them to remain employed.
Young homeless people in North Nottinghamshire face a number of barriers in accessing volunteering and employment opportunities, as well as education. Many of those supported by Nottingham YMCA also have substance and alcohol issues, which means that those individuals require extra support and guidance. A Comic Relief grant enables a Youth Support Worker to deliver both one-to-one and group support sessions to develop the confidence, self-esteem and life skills of the young people, helping them to re-engage and access education and opportunities, which many could not normally access. This vital support helps to break the cycle of homelessness, increasing independence and helping young people to move on.
Blackpool Streetlife identified one-to-one support as a crucial way to help vulnerable young people with issues around substance misuse, mental health and physical health. Comic Relief fund a grant which enables Streetlife to employ an Intensive Support Worker to support homeless young people who do not currently engage with health services. This worker acts as an advocate for the young people that they work with, encouraging and motivating them to access the relevant specialist support that they require.
Herts Young Homeless
Research by Shelter has found that 41% of people give relationship breakdown as the reason for becoming homeless. Herts Young Homeless look to help vulnerable young people by dealing directly with family relationships as an issue. A Comic Relief grant helps fund under-16’s mediation work by Herts Young Homeless to support young people who have left home because of family conflict, as well as those at risk of becoming homeless. With this support, the young people affected are able to develop ways to better deal with conflict, and either return, or remain at home. Long-term, this leads to an improvement in family relationships and helps prevent youth homelessness.
Operating predominantly in Edinburgh, Lothians, Falkirk, Borders and Stirling, Cyrenians have developed a street outreach team to target long-term rough sleepers. A Comic Relief grant is helping to fund a new ‘Homeless Navigator’ programme. This programme will employ a person who has personal experience of homelessness and will work within Cyrenians’ street outreach team to engage long-term rough sleepers in Edinburgh, connecting them with appropriate services and support, helping them to take the first step away from street homelessness.
Worried about a rough sleeper?
If you are a young person who is homeless or at risk of homelessness you can contact Centrepoint for advice and support . If you are worried about someone sleeping rough in England or Wales, contact StreetLink through their website, through their app, or on 0300 500 0914 tell so that they can connect them to local support and services. There is also lots of helpful information for people who are at risk of homelessness or who are homeless on homeless.org.