80,000 young people experience homelessness each year often through no fault of their own...

And these figures fail to account for the growing number of hidden homeless living in poor quality hostels or on friend's sofas. It is believed there are now 250,000 people under the age of 25 who are considered "hidden homeless."

A homeless person is 11 times more likely to suffer mental health problems,
13 times more likely to be a victim of violence or abuse and a third get so low they attempt suicide.

What is homelessness?
Homeless people are not just those who have no roof or sleep rough on the streets. In legislation, homelessness is defined as "having no suitable accommodation available to you, or being at risk of having no suitable accommodation available within the next 28 days" (Shelter, 2007). However, there are many forms of homelessness that can affect young people:

  • Rough Sleeping (around half of the young people Centrepoint support sat they have slept rough)
  • Being in temporary accommodation such as bed & breakfast hostels & hotels
  • 'Sofa surfing' (staying very temporarily with a series of different people)
  • Being asked to leave by parents or landlord - 86 per cent of young homeless people are forced to leave home rather than choosing to (SEU, July 1998)
  • Being at risk of eviction
  • Being unable to stay in your home because of violence or the threat of violence
Why do young people become homeless?
Homelessness can happen to anyone. However, there are certain factors common to homeless young people, making it possible to predict which young people are most at risk of becoming homeless in the future. The 1999 study "Taking Risks" found that the presence of one or more of the following factors places a young person at increased risk of experiencing homelessness:
  • Family disruption such as parents being homeless, in temporary accommodation or moving frequently
  • Household friction, disputes with parents or step-parents (Young people who become homeless are more likely to have lived with step-parents, foster parents or relatives by the age of 12 than those who do not become homeless)
  • Family separation / divorce
  • Overcrowding/co-habiting
  • Family living in poverty
  • Being in care (1 in 6 (17%) of young people supported by Centrepoint have been in local authority care)
  • Not getting on at school (being bullied, excluded or playing truant)
  • Physical, sexual or emotional abuse (45 per cent of young homeless people have experienced violence in the family home on more than one occasion)

Homelessness brings its own problems...
The main 'trigger' for homelessness amongst young people is relationship breakdown. Many young people have experienced long-term problems at home, often involving violence. The impact of homelessness continues to be a cause for concern. Young homeless people experience particularly high levels of depression/anxiety and substance misuse and are more likely to stop engaging in formal education, training or employment. Young people describe their lives as being 'on hold'. Although the Government has improved homelessness legislation, many young people still experience problems, and research has found that people who become homeless at a younger age are more likely to face long-term difficulties.

This factsheet looks at the causes of youth homelessness, some of the groups of young people who are most at risk, the scale of the problem, government initiatives for tackling and preventing homelessness, and Shelter's work with young people.

The following three links provide further information on the issue of homelessness:

Centrepoint - What is homelessness?

Centrepoint - Why young people become homeless

Centrepoint - Effects of homelessness

NFDC - Homelessness Review and Strategy 2003-2008