Homelessness is not only a housing problem.
There are lots of reasons why a young person could become homeless, including family breakdown and mental health issues.
Tens of thousands of young people ask for help with homelessness every year.
Youth homelessness is so much more than not having somewhere to sleep. There are usually complex needs involved, affecting both the young person and their families.
Ziggy had a difficult journey before he came to Centrepoint - homelessness, drugs and crime. He’d been on a roller coaster ride of sleeping in unsafe places like bus shelters and falling in with a bad crowd, which led to run-ins with the police.
Relationship breakdown, usually between young people and their parents or step-parents, is a major cause of youth homelessness. Around six in ten young people who come to Centrepoint say they had to leave home because of arguments, relationship breakdown or being told to leave. Many have experienced long-term problems at home, often involving violence, leaving them without the family support networks that most of us take for granted.
Young people who come to Centrepoint face a range of different and complex problems. More than a third have a mental health issue, such as depression and anxiety, another third need to tackle issues with substance misuse. A similar proportion also need to improve their physical health. These problems often overlap, making it more difficult for young people to access help and increasing the chances of them becoming homeless.
Young people's chances of having to leave home are higher in areas of high deprivation and poor prospects for employment and education. Many of those who experience long spells of poverty can get into problem debt, which makes it harder for them to access housing.
Homeless young people are often affected by gang-related problems. In some cases, it becomes too dangerous to stay in their local area meaning they can end up homeless. One in six young people at Centrepoint have been involved in or affected by gang crime.
Not being in education can make it much more difficult for young people to access help with problems at home or health problems. Missing out on formal education can also make it more difficult for them to move into work.
More than a quarter of young people at Centrepoint have been in care. They often have little choice but to deal with the challenges and responsibilities of living independently at a young age. Traumas faced in their early lives make care leavers some of the most vulnerable young people in our communities, with higher chances of poor outcomes in education, employment and housing. Their additional needs mean they require a higher level of support to maintain their accommodation.
Around 14 per cent of young people at Centrepoint are refugees or have leave to remain, meaning it isn't safe to return home. This includes young people who come to the UK as unaccompanied minors, fleeing violence or persecution in their own country. After being granted asylum, young people sometimes find themselves with nowhere to go and can end up homeless.
Only some homeless people are legally entitled to be housed by their local authority. The people that local authorities prioritise (in England, Scotland and Wales) are referred to as 'statutory homeless'. To be classed as statutory homeless you have to be eligible for assistance, unintentionally homeless and fall within a 'priority need' group. The priority need groups include pregnant women, those with dependent children and people who are vulnerable in some way for reasons such as mental illness or physical disability. The people that meet this criteria are referred to as ‘acceptances’. If you need more information about your legal rights, contact our Helpline.
Facts and figures about youth homelessness are ambiguous and difficult to understand. Without knowing the true picture, how can we find the right solution?
That's why Centrepoint set up the Youth Homelessness Databank – a team dedicated to finding the facts.
A safe, warm and stable place to live is the first, crucial step for every homeless young person. Then, we help to tackle physical and mental health issues, teach basic life skills and get them back into education, training or a job - this is the recipe for supporting homeless young people into positive and independent living.
If you're experiencing any of these issues and are aged 16-25, or you know someone who is, we may have advice for you.