Help for young people facing homelessness

News Research redevelopment Uncategorized

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 divorcebereavementmental illnessparental alcoholismneglect 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.


Hidden Homelessness in Young People

News Research

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

Do-it Partner Survey 2012

News Research

In January 2012, 179 of the 665 Do-it partners completed a questionnaire exploring their experiences and perceptions of Do-it.

The main findings were as follows:

Of the 179 respondents that completed the survey, 150 used V-Base: 

  • 83% of V-Base users agreed V-Base helped them achieve their objectives;
  • 80% of V-Base users agreed their lives would be difficult without V-Base;
  • 74% agreed that they found V-Base easy to use;
  • 72% were satisfied with the software.

 30 respondents used V-Base Recruiter;

  • 22 agreed V-Base Recruiter helped their organisation achieve its objectives;
  • 19 agreed it was easy to use;
  •  14 agreed that life would be difficult without V-Base recruiter;
  •  30 were satisfied with service.

  Download the full report here: Partner report 2012

Alcohol and sex: Young people’s attitudes and behaviours

Latest news News Research

YouthNet has been funded by the Department of Health to run a project which aims to develop audio and written content that explores the correlation between alcohol consumption and high-risk sex.  As part of this project, between the 5th of December 2011 and the 9th February 2012, YouthNet conducted an online survey completed by 719 16 to 25 year-old residents of the UK. The survey explored young people’s attitudes and behaviours relating to alcohol consumption and risky sexual activity, with a specific focus on their help-seeking behaviour when it came to issues emerging from a night out drinking.

Download report: Young people, alcohol and sex – Research Report (April 2012)

Do-it Volunteer Satisfaction Survey 2011

News Research

A questionnaire exploring satisfaction with Do-it and the volunteer experience was sent to all those who registered on Do-it between January and December 2010. By the time the survey closed, there had been 2,615 responses (out of the 229,968 registered volunteers).

  • Nearly three in 10 respondents (27%) said they had been inspired by the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games to volunteer.
  • The most popular reasons for volunteering among respondents were ‘to help others’ (72%) and ‘to do something positive with my spare time’ (71%).
  • The main reasons for younger respondents to start volunteering were ‘to gain work experience’ (83%) and ‘to gain or improve skills’ (78%).
  • Findings show that the majority of respondents who started a volunteering experience were satisfied with it.
    • 81% of those who had started a volunteering placement felt valued by the organisation for which they had volunteered.
    • 76% of those who had started a volunteering placement felt the volunteering they did gave them a real sense of achievement.
    • 69% of those who had started a volunteering placement felt the volunteering they did made a positive difference to other peoples’ lives.
    • 68% of those who had started a volunteering placement felt they made a real difference to the organisation at which they had volunteered.

Download Do-it Volunteer Satisfaction Report 2010 (published December 2011)

High or dry report into drug use

News Research

Between 25th March and 1st April 2010, 604 young people aged 16 to 25 from the UK completed a survey conducted by YouthNet called High or Dry.

The report explores young people’s experience and awareness of drugs, as well as their attitudes towards drug information, advice and education. The survey constituted a second wave of drug-related research funded by the Department of Health.

Between 25th March and 1st April 2010, 604 young people aged 16 to 25 (YouthNet’s target age group) completed the survey on which was incentivised with a guaranteed £5 Amazon voucher for all respondents.

Download High or Dry.

A voice for young people

News Research

A voice for young people: Identifying support needs through dialogue is the result of eight workshops with 62 young people, funded by Youth in Action.

In October and November 2009, YouthNet conducted eight workshops through which 62 young people from a range of backgrounds and locations were consulted about their experiences of growing up and their support needs.

These groups included:

  • Highly active internet users
  • Young people who were ex-offenders or drug or alcohol abusers
  • Lesbian, gay and bisexual young people
  • Young people who were from rural south west England
  • Young women from ethnic minority backgrounds
  • Young people from the outskirts of Glasgow
  • Young people with no further education
  • Young parents.

Download A Voice for Young People.

Do-it Volunteer Satisfaction Survey 2010

News Research

Between 12 November 2009 and 5 January 2010, 2,332 registered users of Do-it completed YouthNet’s Volunteer Satisfaction Survey.

  • Almost a quarter (22%) of respondents said they had been inspired by the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games to volunteer
  • The most popular reasons for volunteering were “to help others” (71%) and “to do something positive with spare time” (71%)
  • Volunteers were most interested in “using volunteering to improve listening and communication skills (55%), interpersonal skills (50%), team working (48%) and problem-solving skills” (45%)
  • The most popular types of opportunity were those involving children (38%), those related to education (38%), followed by health, hospitals or hospices (34%)
  • Nearly half (48%) wanted to get involved in administrative tasks
  • 42% were interested in providing advice, information and support
  • Over a third (39%) would like to get involved in befriending, buddying and mentoring.

Download Do-it Volunteer Satisfaction Report 2009-2010

Self-Harm: Recovery, Advice and Support

News Research

In January 2009 a new section of was launched, dedicated to providing those affected by self-harm with quality, up-to-date and engaging information, advice and support.

The section – Self-harm: Recovery, Advice and Support – was developed through a partnership between 42nd Street, Depaul UK and YouthNet, with funding from the Camelot Foundation and supported by the National Children’s Bureau (NCB).

As part of the project, the partners conducted a programme of research with young people aged between 16 and 24, and professionals working in the field of self-harm.

The report provides details of the exploratory qualitative research undertaken, which aimed to inform the development and promotion of the self-harm section of the website, as well as provide evidence of the need for the service amongst young people affected by self-harm. The report also focuses on project evaluation, providing statistics on service use as well as findings of both an online feedback survey and an online focus group discussion. The results will be of value to individuals and organisations interested in how to support young people affected by self-harm.

Download Self-harm exploratory and evaluative research