As the UK’s leading youth homelessness charity, Centrepoint was established in the 1960s at a time of huge social change. Amidst a housing crisis that bred a heightened awareness of homelessness, we made it our mission to find a home and a job for every young person who needed it. Today, that mission is stronger than ever.
Although many of us are now more aware of the issues surrounding youth homelessness – the causes, the long-term effects, and the ways we can prevent the cycle from repeating itself – there’s still a great deal of work to be done.
More than 100,000 young people approach their local authority every year because they are homeless, or at risk of homelessness. The housing stock that exists, versus the amount we need to house all people safely, is over 1 million homes. Youth unemployment is soaring, and over half of homeless young people report living with mental health issues. This simply cannot go on.
We live in a world where some people are denied access to the most basic human rights: warmth, food, shelter and safety, through no fault of their own. Living without these necessities can put a huge strain on a young person’s wellbeing.
One young person who is all too familiar with this struggle is Mitak. Like many other young people, Mitak experienced homelessness as a result of family breakdown; he was thrown out of his aunt’s home and slept rough for two days, before staying with a friend.
Mitak spoke to us about how gruelling life can be for young people who aren’t receiving the right support:
"People don’t realise how much some young people carry on their shoulders, and on top of that, to pay bills and rent and hold down a job. It can be incredibly challenging. For a young person with no support, it’s much harder to get the qualifications they need to move forward and get the job they want. They need more support to get those qualifications."
Thankfully, Mitak received support from Centrepoint, providing him with the skills he needed to become independent. He is currently working with our Policy team as part of a peer research group, and is writing a book about his life story. For Mitak, Centrepoint’s support provided a vital lifeline – it was a glimmer of hope in an otherwise desperate time:
"Having the support from Centrepoint helped me to put my life back together. For young vulnerable people like me, understanding who is there for us and who we can trust is difficult because we’re used to being completely on our own. Having my support worker there, someone I could trust and speak to when things went wrong, really helped me get back on my feet. It was slow progress, but it worked in the long-run. Now I’m able to do everything for myself; I’m very independent and doing really well."
Every young person deserves the chance to flourish, something that can be impossible without a roof over your head. It’s absolutely vital that we continue working with young people like Mitak, providing safe, warm housing, emotional support and the skills they need to move on to a happy and autonomous life.
The mission of World Homeless Day chimes with Centrepoint’s own aims, specifically those defined in our new five-year strategy, ‘Change the Story: Ending Youth Homelessness All Together’. Here, we outline our vision to end youth homelessness by 2037 by optimising the way we work, preventing young people from experiencing homelessness, supporting those who are homeless and amplifying the voices of homeless young people. By working together across society, we can make our vision a reality – we can end homelessness for young people like Mitak.
This World Homeless Day, let’s remember why we all hold this cause so close to our hearts. It’s because we want to see a world in which young people like Mitak never have to face homelessness in the first place, where the thousands of young people who are homeless right now, can access the future they deserve.