Hidden Homelessness in Young People

Chris Martin (he/him)
Chief Executive Officer

We started with an issue – homelessness in young people.

We knew various external factors were combining to create a perfect storm of homelessness for young people.

  • Changes to the welfare benefits system.
  • The lack of affordable housing stock.
  • The withdrawal of easy to access mortgages.
  • A more challenging jobs market.

This combined with intelligence from the thousands of young people we support on our boards, live chat and face to face led us to realise we had to act.

We began by drawing together a group of experts: Housing sector colleagues from Shelter, Depaul and Centrepoint and St Basils; third sector colleagues from Get Connected; representatives from academic sector at LSE; as well as people from the digital world like Scramboo and Harriman Steel.

Most importantly we spoke to groups of young people in Birmingham and London who had experienced homelessness.

And…. like all good research projects, the first thing we found out was that everything we thought about homelessness was wrong.

We thought that we would be creating some kind of service for a generation of young people who were sofa surfing for financial reasons.

What we discovered was that the real cause of homelessness in young people was – in almost every instance – a catastrophic breakdown of relationships within the family driven by:

  • cultural differences
  • violence and abuse
  • bereavement
  • the arrival of a new partner

This insight had immediate impact.

We have been funded by Nominet Trust to review the housing content made available on TheSite. So as well as updating all our factual information about rent, mortgages etc , our editorial team begin to look at content covering family conflict in our relationships section.

As we continued to explore this concept through interviews and co-creation sessions with young people, we discovered the journey to homelessness was a three stage process.

A crisis at home would precipitate a fluctuating journey in which young people bounced between home and sleeping on friends’ sofas, home and hostels, home and rough sleeping…

Throughout this period of slipping a young person’s mental wellbeing was slowly eroded and with it their ability to bounce back.

As they became close to homelessness their shame and alienation left them isolated and powerless to take control of their situation.

Our colleagues in the housing sector deliver amazing provision for young homeless people. And we saw this first hand during the project. But despite seeing and recognising this journey, it was usually beyond their remit to be able to intervene at these early, crucial stages.

So for YouthNet, we saw a real opportunity to create impactful digital products that:

  • would not duplicate existing services,
  • would play to our strengths around the emotional wellbeing of young people; and
  • were ideally suited for early intervention.

As always we worked with young people to create actionable concepts for these digital products.
You can find details of these and all of our insights on the research website at http://homeless.youthnet.org


Published on 28-Nov-2013