Preventing youth homelessness: what works?

The provision of effective interventions for young people at risk of homelessness is essential if youth homelessness is to be reduced and prevented. This review brings together and examines evidence on a range of interventions which aim to prevent youth homelessness.

Executive Summary

This review brings together and examines evidence on a range of interventions which aim to prevent youth homelessness. The analysis spans primary prevention where families are supported before homelessness occurs; through to tertiary prevention for young people already experiencing homelessness. By examining the available research, the review explores what is evidenced to work effectively, what could work and what is un-evidenced. An economic analysis is also presented which demonstrates the cost of youth homelessness to the public purse if it is not prevented early.

Key findings and recommendations:


  • Failing to prevent homelessness until young people are over 18 costs the state an estimated 37 per cent extra every year compared to preventing it when they are 16 or 17
  • Multi-agency models are generally based upon three common principles; information sharing, joint decision making and coordinated intervention.11 All of the evaluations evidenced the importance of multi-agency working.
  • A ‘single front door’ approach is utilised by many local authorities as a gateway into services. Due to the often chaotic nature in which this group of young people engage with services, often involving shifting between home and homelessness, the single front door streamlines and simplifies their engagement
  • Across much of the evidence, a whole family approach was cited as crucial, given that youth homelessness often stems from issues going on at home.
  • Positive professional relationships between staff and service users were cited as the key ingredient to success.
  • Mediation can reconcile family relationships, but it should not be used simply to secure a quick return home when wider problems warrant a more comprehensive service response.


  • Implement a cross-departmental strategy on homelessness to co-ordinate the necessary action on prevention from multiple departments.
  • Conduct a national review of mediation services and the efficacy of different approaches
  • Ensure that holistic early family support is championed in the government’s Life Chances Strategy
  • Introduce a homelessness prevention duty and a stronger advice and information duty
  • Sponsor a national, virtual portal giving all young people access to advice and information about homelessness
  • Signpost all young people, irrespective of priority need, intentionality or local connection status, who present at housing services for advice and information
  • Have youth specific emergency/temporary accommodation
  • Assess levels of staff turnover in teams working directly with vulnerable families