Homeless youths caught in temporary accommodation ‘limbo’ for up to two years

Edinburgh Homeless Young PersonYoung homeless people in Scotland are being left in temporary accommodation for up to two years while they wait for a settled home and the situation is likely to get worse, according to Homeless Action Scotland.

The charity’s annual youth homelessness survey revealed that the duration that young people stay in temporary accommodation has increased over the past five years with a large number now facing a wait of between 18 and 24 months before finding a settled home.

The survey, which covered 160 services who dealt with around 6,000 young homeless people over the last year, focused on the key areas of profile, causes, needs, rough sleeping, prevention, accommodation, moving on, and welfare reform as well as several questions looking at attitudes concerning youth housing and homelessness.

It found that family breakdown continued to be the single largest cause of youth homelessness, with young people having to leave home due to untenable relationships. Although it added that the most common outcome of prevention intervention, such as mediation, is for the young person to return to the family home.

Young homeless people in their twenties who ‘sofa surf’ do so for an average of over 28 days, while younger homeless people in their teens are more likely to sleep rough. Both groups were described as ‘hidden but hurting’.

The survey noted a general trend that young people who approach youth housing and homelessness services are doing so with increasingly complex needs and that LGBT youth and young people from ethnic minorities are over represented with little specialist support available for them.

It also revealed that organisations inconsistently record data relating to minority groups, or other groups likely to face prejudice, which may mean that they are under reported.

There is a need for better co-ordination between adult and adolescent mental health services, since young people aged 17 or 18 often face a gap in services, the survey added.

Homeless Action Scotland said homelessness workers responding to the survey have predicted that the housing needs of young people will worsen in the next five years. They see a lack of suitable housing stock as a bigger issue than poverty with many teams working within youth housing and homelessness experiencing increased workloads and a shrinking workforce.

Workers recognise that there is a lot of good practice taking place across Scotland within youth homelessness and that a wide array of skills are being used to assist young people out of the housing crisis but that much more needs to be done.

Robert Aldridge
Robert Aldridge

Homeless Action Scotland CEO Robert Aldridge said: “Although there have been great improvements in the way Scotland tackles homelessness over the years, this report shows that there is a huge amount of work still to be done.

“Housing options for young people are becoming more and more limited as welfare reforms begin to bite, and those who do need help are often spending too long in limbo in temporary accommodation, which affects their chances of finding and keeping a job or training and can impact on their physical and mental health.

“Mental health services for those falling between children’s and adult services are not well co-ordinated with vulnerable young people falling through the net.

“The report’s findings come directly from those who work with young homeless people, whose outlook is becoming more and demoralised as the combination of austerity cuts and welfare reforms limit the chances for young people to escape from homelessness for good.”

The charity has outlined 13 recommendations it believes can help reverse the trend of youth homelessness.

  1. Create and implement a means of recording minority groups’ engagement with advice and support to ensure the needs of service users are developed appropriately and sensitively.
  2. Develop and support specific prevention interventions targeted at discrete groups within the youth homeless population, e.g., specific support for LGBT young people.
  3. Improve the provision of joined-up support for young people experiencing poor mental health.
  4. Work more closely with health, including community mental health and CAMHS, in order to identify who might need targeted homelessness prevention support.
  5. Homelessness prevention services to build stronger links with community and family services.
  6. Continue to support mediation as a tool in prevention of homelessness.
  7. Develop further homelessness prevention tools to ensure the widest variety of approaches is used across Scotland.
  8. Publish robust Housing Options Guidance and training for all local authorities as quickly as possible.
  9. Continue to develop practical support for the development and implementation of Care Leavers Housing Options Protocols.
  10. Ensure the time young people spend in temporary accommodation is as brief as possible in order to allow them to best take advantage of education, training and employment possibilities
  11. Invest in creating more local authority and RSL affordable accommodation across Scotland.
  12. Continue to support and develop Leaving Home and Housing Education in schools across Scotland.
  13. Create a means of rewarding and celebrating good practice in youth homelessness prevention.
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