Last year, saw the worst attack on living standards in almost 40 years. The fallout from the pandemic and the war in Ukraine continue to affect supply chains globally, which means that ordinary people are being hit with high food prices, and inflated housing and energy bills. Costs they just can’t afford.

Many of the young people we work with at Depaul UK already live hand to mouth, relying on Universal Credit and part-time work to survive. As we predicted in early 2022, poverty has increased, and more vulnerable people are becoming homeless.

The charity, Crisis, recently reported that almost one million low-income households feared eviction during winter, and millions of people are skipping meals, so they can cover the cost of housing.

So, how have rising costs affected young people experiencing homelessness over the last 12 months?

The impact of rising food and housing costs

For young people experiencing homelessness, one major impact on their lives has been rising food prices. In November 2022, it was reported that UK food prices had risen by 12.4%, squeezing the budgets of low-income households even tighter. The cost of basic foods such as tea, bread, and pasta has risen significantly.

A report published by Centrepoint in [Month] stated that 30% of vulnerable young people often go without food for a whole day.

Sarah Wilson, Depaul UK’s Nightstop Manager in Bath, echoed the findings:

“We’ve been issuing a lot more food bank vouchers to our young people and they’ve been coming in more [often] because they are struggling to feed themselves. Worryingly, we also know that as the need for food banks  increases, so does homelessness.”

This increase was highlighted by data from the Trussell Trust. We spoke to Joe Farnworth-Mayers, Policy Officer at the charity, he said: “Nearly two in five people, so 38% of people in receipt of Universal Credit, went a whole day without any food at all or skipped a meal because they didn’t have any money for food, compared to 11% of the general population.”

Adding: “We know that housing insecurity and homelessness are closely associated with needing to use food banks and not having a sufficient income to afford the essentials. In 2020, 12% of people who attended a food bank in our network were evicted from their homes in the past 12 months. There is a significant overrepresentation of people who are homeless who need to turn to food banks.”

These concerns are a stark reality for many people in the North East and Cumbria, where our emergency accommodation, Nightstop, has seen a 15% increase in users this winter.

Dimas Lopez, Depaul UK’s Prevention Manager in the region said: “I’ve been working in this sector for over 10 years and I’ve never been as worried as I am now. Many young people just can’t afford utility bills, rent, or other costs, making them more at risk of homelessness.  As a manager for a Nightstop service, that’s something that worries me.

He added: “The crisis is not only affecting how many young people we can support in our services, as the demand outstrips our resources, but it also hinders young people from moving out of services to begin focussing on rebuilding their lives.”

Mia is just one of the young people we support who is struggling to rebuild her life because of rising costs. Through our education and training programme, Steps to Success, Mia was pursuing her dream of becoming a beautician but is now struggling to earn a living.

“Everything’s just got so much more expensive. I get £230 universal credit. It’s pretty hard when you’re running a business because you’re making money but you’ve got to buy the stock. The profits are not always yours. I’m just living off my universal credit, which is not really enough. And I feel like I don’t want to increase my prices, as I’ve just started and I’m new.

For people like Mia, and other young people experiencing homelessness, the cost of living crisis is far from over, and is yet just another barrier preventing them from living the life they want to.

At Depaul UK, we continue to be committed to finding new ways to support young people affected by homelessness. We are adjusting our services to meet the increasingly urgent needs, as well as opening new services to meet demand. Our work, providing vital mental health support, housing assistance, education, and training is more important than ever.