Black History Month is a time to celebrate black history, heritage and culture that have contributed so much to the UK and around the world. But it’s also a time for continued action to tackle racism, and come together to make a change for the better.
At Depaul UK, Black History Month is a chance for us to raise awareness of the issues affecting black young people experiencing homelessness.
Black people are three times more likely to experience homelessness. Indeed, government figures revealed that 9.7 per cent of people applying to councils for help with homelessness between April 2020 and March 2021 were black. This continues to be an issue due to a lack access to quality housing because of labour market inequalities, immigration policy and wealth inequalities putting black people more at risk of experiencing homelessness.
At Depaul UK, 17% of young people we support identify as black. Not only are they disproportionately at risk of homelessness, but they also face complex inequalities in their journey out of homelessness.
“I think there is still systemic racism. People especially profile black men around gang affiliation and drug use,” Kirsty Clydesdale, Senior Progression Coach at Depaul UK says. This can have a profound impact on the black young people we support. As Kirsty explains, “I’ve heard young people say, ‘What’s the point anyway? No one trusts us, no one believes us’.
It erodes their self-worth. We are trying really hard to say that that’s not true because we believe in you, we have trust in you. But if everyone else is saying that you’ve not got potential, it’s really hard when you’re one little voice in that massive societal voice.”
For black young people, this is felt to be different from the experiences of their peers from different backgrounds. Xenia, 24, was supported by Hotel 1824, our youth-specific emergency accommodation service for people experience rough sleeping. Of her experience of rough sleeping she says, “You get a lot more prejudice. People are a lot more scared of you. And people just think you’re there for stupid reasons.”
This is telling of how labels and stereotypes continue to make it difficult for black young people to break out of homelessness. This Black History Month, we want to ensure that instead of being written off, all young black people are given the opportunities to grow, thrive, and make a success of their lives.
As Kirsty says, “It doesn’t matter what a client looks like, where they have come from, or how they present. Everybody deserves the same respect. I think that’s absolutely vital.”
At Depaul UK, we are diverse organisation, providing holistic support to help young people with housing, mental health, education, and employment because homelessness is not just about needing a roof over your head. If you are facing homelessness, we are here for you.