Youth homelessness charity, Depaul UK, has warned of extraordinary risks to young people facing homelessness this winter and says that in the first six months of this year, there was a 30% increase in referrals to its emergency accommodation service, Nightstop.
The charity said that the combined impact of increased debt, spiralling bills, and low incomes could lead to conflict in households, which exacerbates family and relationship breakdowns, which is one of the key causes behind the increase of young people vulnerable to homelessness.
It has launched an urgent appeal to help young people reach a safe place tonight.
It’s estimated that around 129,000 16–25-year-olds are homeless* or at risk of
homelessness but Depaul UK warn that the figures could be significantly higher as homelessness is often hidden.
Jasmine (not real name), 30, from North Shields, was weeks away from her final exams when she was forced to live in her car, parked outside her University.
Jasmine said: “I was working part-time, around 20-hours a week, studying for my finals, and had just been diagnosed with autism, but I wasn’t going to miss my exams, I’d worked too hard.”
Jasmine’s tutor was the first to notice that she was struggling, after she attended one of her final classes looking and feeling completely exhausted, he asked her if she was OK. She continued: “I knew I couldn’t put on a facade any longer, but I didn’t want people at university to know I was struggling. I was ashamed as I never expected to end up homeless.
“I had to leave home because of an argument with someone in my family. I stayed with a friend for a while but didn’t want to be a burden, especially as she was a single Mum. I was weeks away from completing my degree and couldn’t give up despite the circumstances.
“With nowhere left to turn, the only place I could think of staying was my car, but after five nights I was at breaking point – the council wasn’t able to help so I contacted Nightstop. A volunteer host was found ten minutes away and when I arrived at their house, I was welcomed with a smile. I was able to wash my clothes, eat some homemade food, and get some proper sleep for the first time in weeks. It was the lifeline I needed.”
Nicola Harwood, Executive Director of Operations from Depaul UK said:
“We know that many young people who have nowhere to go, often because of family conflict, may accept an offer to stay with someone they’ve just met, or they’ll ride buses throughout the night, seek out 24-hour bars, only to find themselves among much older and sometimes predatory people.
“Living like this poses extraordinary risks. Exhausted, uncertain, and with few options, young people can become easy targets for abuse and exploitation. Anything may seem better than sleeping rough – especially in winter.
“Nightstop provides emergency accommodation and offers a lifeline to many young homeless people in crisis. We help those sleeping on the streets tonight and ensure that others who have run out of options never have to sleep in unsafe places. It’s vital that young people know that they’re not alone, that this is temporary, and that they have their whole lives ahead of them.”
Charlie (name changed to protect his identity) is 18 and lives in Newcastle. He became homeless at 16 years old.
He said: “I was kicked out of home and couldn’t afford a hotel, so I ended up staying in a late-night café, and the bus station. Obviously, on a weekend the bus stop wasn’t filled with the best people, but it was the only place that had cameras, so if anything happened at least there was CCTV. I was always on high alert and never got any sleep.
“I found out about Nightstop from Google. I reached out to them and they sorted me out with somewhere to stay on the same day. I ended up using the service for a couple of weeks until social services found me somewhere else to stay more permanently, which meant that I could keep studying and working part-time in a restaurant.
“I have a lot to thank Nightstop for. The couple I stayed with were so welcoming and friendly. I felt safe and relaxed, and I was able to sleep properly for the first time in ages. If I hadn’t gone through Nightstop, I don’t think I would have got the help I needed.”
Last year, Depaul UK worked with more than 2,000 young people, supporting them to find accommodation, stability, and employment opportunities. It operates services across England, in London, Milton Keynes, the North East and Cumbria, and Greater Manchester and Cheshire East.
Supporting the winter appeal, Depaul UK President Sir Trevor McDonald said:
“Rough sleeping can be life threatening, especially as it gets colder. Depaul UK has been supporting people at risk of homelessness for more than three decades, but the need for their services has significantly increased so I’m urging people to support us with this appeal, and help a young person reach a safe place tonight.”
For more information about youth homelessness, become a volunteer or to support Depaul UK’s winter appeal please visit: www.depaul.org.uk/appeal