YMCA, the world’s oldest and largest charity for young people, has labelled the latest youth homelessness stats a “wake-up” call for politicians.
The charity, which provides almost 10,000 beds a night across the UK, says the increase in young people sleeping rough in London – identified in the latest Combined Homelessness and Information Network (CHAIN) report released today – should alert the Government that much more needs to be done to protect those who are most vulnerable.
The latest annual report, commissioned by the Greater London Authority (GLA), shows 871 young people aged 18 to 25-years-old slept rough in the Capital between April 2014 and March 2015, a rise of 40% from 2011/12.
The charity adds that potential Housing Benefit cuts for 18 to 21-year-olds promoted in May’s Queen’s Speech, could exacerbate the problem further and increase the numbers of young people forced into damaging and dangerous rough sleeping all over the UK.
Denise Hatton, Chief Executive of YMCA England, said: “It should be unimaginable that any young person has to spend a single night sleeping rough in this country.
“However, figures released today show that 871 people aged 18 to 25-years-old slept rough in London 2014/15, a rise of 16% from the past year and by 40% since 2011/12.
“While young people make up only a small percentage of those identified through this research, this has the potential to rise significantly with the proposed removal of Housing Benefit for 18 to 21-year-olds.
“These figures should act as a wake-up call to the Government, not only to reduce current levels of rough sleeping but also to prevent any further increases that could result from cutting Housing Benefit.”
The YMCA Federation intensively supports 228,000 young people every year through accommodation, health and wellbeing and mental health programmes, training and education.
One young former rough sleeper to benefit from a YMCA room in the past year has been Liam Greenaway-Reid, from Hackney.
Liam was thrown out of his family home aged 19 after his parent’s marriage breakdown and a succession of arguments.
He slept rough more than 500 times over two years before being housed by YMCA in Romford.
He said: “Sleeping rough was stressful and all I had with me were a few items of clothing and a small backpack.
“I remember the things I had to do to stay safe – sneak into places, beg friends, sleep on park benches, bus stops and even on the bus! You don’t get any sleep whatsoever: at most I would get about two hours.
“YMCA has made me a more confident person in every way and helped me make new friends. The activities I have taken part in have made me more driven for my own goals. I’m a lot more positive now.”
For more information or for interviews and further statements, please contact Media Manager, Andy Mortimer, on 020 7186 9543.
Notes to Editors
- Founded in 1844, YMCA in England is made up of 114 member YMCAs working to ensure that young people have opportunities to thrive and contribute positively to their communities.
- YMCA operates in over 530 different communities in England impacting upon the lives of over 600,000 people every year.
- YMCAs provide almost 10,000 beds for young people every night. YMCA is the largest voluntary sector provider of safe, supported accommodation for young men and women.
- YMCA enables nearly 43,000 people every year to engage in education, skills and training to enable them to improve their opportunities in the job market.
- YMCA is the largest voluntary sector provider of health and wellbeing services promoting physical activity.
Figures relate to the number of people seen sleeping rough by street outreach teams in London between April 2014 and March 2015. These figures have been compiled in the latest Combined Homelessness and Information Network (CHAIN) report, commissioned by the Greater London Authority (GLA) and managed by homelessness agency, St Mungo’s Broadway.
For the purposes of CHAIN, a person is counted as having been seen rough sleeping if they have been encountered by a commissioned street outreach worker bedded down on the street, or in other open spaces or locations not designed for habitation.
In addition, the CHAIN report also shows that rough sleeping in London has increased by 16% in the past year, with 7,581 people seen rough sleeping in 2014/15, compared to 6,508 in 2013/14.
The full CHAIN report can be seen here.