Covid places thousands of homeless youngsters at risk of harm, says charity CEO


Depaul UK Chief Executive Mike Thiedke, who today (Wednesday, 4 November) launches the final report in a five-year research project into the dangers young people face when homeless, warned: “Covid is placing thousands of young people at risk of harm and abuse.”

Together with Depaul UK President Sir Trevor McDonald, the youth homelessness charity CEO is launching “Danger Zones & Stepping Stones: Phase Three” at an online Parliamentary Reception for MPs and Peers.

Mr Thiedke said: “Tens of thousands of young people in the UK are finding themselves jobless through the economic impact of Covid, and the signs are there that youth homelessness is increasing. Depaul’s Danger Zones & Stepping Stones research project shows that, without a home, young people frequently end up becoming victims of physical, sexual and emotional abuse.

“As the days get shorter and the weather colder, desperate young people are being forced to sleep in dangerous places. If we’re not careful the current pandemic could place thousands more young people at risk of harm and abuse.”

He added: “It’s vital that those facing homelessness receive the necessary support to escape homelessness, stay safe and move into stable accommodation. To do this, homelessness charities like Depaul UK need to be able to work closely with central government, local authorities and elected mayors to ensure we can meet the needs of the most vulnerable in our society.”  

Veteran TV journalist and news presenter Sir Trevor McDonald said: “Homelessness among young people is a great problem. We called for a debate into this [four years ago]. The debate goes on. The issue of homelessness is still as relevant today as it was when we launched the first Danger Zones report in 2016.

“Young people are still homeless without places to go. Now we know more from the research of the consequences: physical abuse, sexual abuse, mental abuse.”

Sir Trevor added: “Most of the people who experience homelessness first become homeless between the ages of 16 and 24. So it is important that we tackle the problem at its source, where it starts. It is appropriate this report is entitled Danger Zones and Stepping Stones because it provides the diagnostic tools that professionals can use to help people step out of Danger Zones and into a place of greater safety.

“There are many, many young people who are desperately in need of this help. This is not just a research project. It is something that gives an idea of what can be done in practical terms to help people get a better life.”

Danger Zones and Stepping Stones: Phase Three, supported by LetterOne, explores the risks faced by young people in Temporary Living Arrangements (TLAs) to understand how the homelessness sector can better protect and support young people experiencing homelessness.

It is the third and final part of Depaul’s Danger Zones & Stepping Stones research project. Previous reports have found that 55 percent of homeless young people had experienced some form of harm in Temporary Living Arrangements. Around one in five young women who took part in the research had been sexually abused or exploited while out of stable accommodation, and two-thirds of those identifying as LGBTQ+, had experienced some form of harm in Temporary Living Arrangements.

Depaul UK is calling for the Government to do more to prevent youth homelessness, calling on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to act on his commitment to launch a review into the causes of rough sleeping and include a specific focus on young people.

The charity is also calling on the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) to fund a national youth homelessness prevention programme, as well as ensuring that there is sufficient safe and supportive accommodation available for young people who become homeless.