Prevention can play a key part in addressing society’s problem with youth homelessness

For too long homelessness and rough sleeping have been seen primarily by as something to deal with at the point of crisis when someone has already been forced out of the home, either as a result of economic struggles or family breakdown.

150,000 young people approach their local council in this country for help each year because they are homeless or at risk of homelessness, about half of whom find their way to hostels run by charitable providers, including those who are members of End Youth Homelessness.

End Youth Homelessness is a group of charities based across Britain who work with young people under the age of 25 to not only house them, but also to support them with mental and physical health problems and to help them to gain new skills and find work.  By joining together we are aim to raise awareness of the many barriers that face homeless young people and persuade governments at national, regional and local level to better support the young people we work with.

The key to ending homelessness for people of all ages is to move away from focussing just on accommodating people who are already homeless.  We need to give equal importance to early intervention to prevent people from becoming homeless in the first place and to ensuring that they leave services with the skills to work and live independently.

That’s why we’re so pleased to be working with creative agency Leo Burnett who have created artwork and secured advertising sites across the country to raise public awareness about the breadth of the struggles homeless young people face.

The good news is that the tide is beginning to turn. Just last month, Conservative MP Bob Blackman secured government support for new legislation that will help link people at risk of homelessness to advice and support much earlier with the aim of reducing the number of individuals and families who are evicted from their homes.

If its ambitions are matched by government funding for local authorities then the Homelessness Reduction Bill could be a catalyst for changing how the country thinks about homelessness.

As a new report published by Centrepoint – a member of End Youth Homelessness - shows, the cost of waiting to provide help until someone loses their home, is kicked out by their family, or flees domestic violence runs to thousands of pounds.

Early intervention and support to prevent family breakdown is at the heart of ending youth homelessness in the 21st century.  It is not only the right thing to do but also offers the best deal for the government and the public as our new research report estimates that supporting a young person who is both homeless and not in education, employment or training costs almost £20,000 per year to support.

With increasing parliamentary and public focus on youth homelessness, the government should take the opportunity to work with councils and charities to reimagine how we can work together to end youth homelessness. That means moving away from housing-only solutions and looking at how we can collectively provide support to tackle key aspects of homelessness such as providing more family mediation, faster access to mental health services, and more training schemes for unemployed young people.

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