This blog introduces TheSite’s new housing section – the first phase of YouthNet’s response to the housing crisis engulfing young people in the UK today.
Understanding the problem
The story started over a year ago. Funded by Nominet, we brought together housing and homelessness experts and young people to research the root causes of homelessness (see an earlier blog outlining the process).
We assumed young people became homeless for financial reasons – but we were wrong. Our research shows the main factor is almost always family breakdown of some type. As our video Spike’s story illustrates, a huge range of family issues can lead a young person to leave home. And often, like Spike, they don’t even see their situation in its true light until it’s too late. Sofa surfing with friends can seem like a fun option, until the sofas run out.
Intervening early on the root causes of homelessness
It followed that what is needed is a focus on all the strands that can lead a family to break up – so we’ve produced content about divorce, bereavement, mental illness, parental alcoholism, neglect and child abuse. We look at solutions young people can access themselves without external support – whether it’s calling a helpline, going to their GP or asking for family therapy or mediation. Thanks to the National Youth Reference Group and YMCA for helping us find case studies for this section.
Another discovery is that one in three young homeless people are Lesbian, Gay, Bi or Trans (LGBT). As Bob Green from Stonewall Housing points out in our videos about the problems young LGBT people face , even in 2014, coming out is still a scary process and one that can sadly result in being kicked out of home. Young people like Zeph, who eventually found support from the Albert Kennedy Trust, are among the most vulnerable and hidden in our society.
Offering crisis help
As well as looking at the root causes of homelessness and asking what a Spike or a Zeph might need to avoid leaving home in the first place, we’ve focused on providing information about how to leave home in a managed and safe way if that’s the only option.
We’d like to thank Centrepoint for helping clarify what it means to be ‘legally homeless’ and what to pack if you’re leaving home. Our thanks also go to Shelter for providing expert responses to 25 housing Q&As.
Dodgy landlords, annoying housemates, trouble paying the bills
We’ve tied the launch of our work on family breakdown and homelessness with the migration of our housing content onto TheSite from our old platform. The problems that dog young people in the rental sector are endless and can mean anything from a pesky dripping tap that gets in the way of exam revision to facing eviction because of rent rises. We’ve tried to cover the whole spectrum in our housing problems section.
Of note here is that we co-opted several young vloggers to tell us about their housing tribulations. This strand of work features debuts from Youthnetters Josh and Luis and a special appearance from long-standing YouTuber Beckie0, who kindly lent her time to this project. Using vloggers is proving a very successful way to engage young people and following this trial we hope to work with many more new and established YouTube personalities.
The end of the beginning
This piece of work represents the completion of the first phase of a three year project aimed at intervening early on youth homelessness. Our vision is of a digital ecosystem of support that mirrors young people’s lives. Our research has helped formulate a three year plan encompassing interlinking and complementary digital products that address specific need states around relationship breakdown, sofa surfing and slipping close to homelessness.
We know that there is not a single product solution to homelessness, and we will continue to collaborate with sector partners and young people to establish our approach as it develops.