Helping tackle youth poverty

10 April 2017 | OVO Foundation

Youth homelessness is an extremely complex problem. There are no simple solutions. The thing to do is look at the causes and find out how we can tackle these.

What is youth homelessness?

Being a young homeless person isn’t something limited to those you see sleeping on the streets. Under the law, you can still be classed as homeless even if you have a roof over your head. Maybe you don’t have a right to stay there. Maybe it’s not safe. Maybe it’s not permanent. Research carried out on behalf of the charity Shelter says that the most common definition of homelessness for young people was not having a permanent home – being forced to move from house to house every few weeks, from sofa to sofa, and having to live out of a bag.

What causes youth homelessness?

Family breakdown is the most common reason that young people become homeless. But some other common factors are:

  • They are vulnerable. Perhaps they’ve been in the care system. Maybe they’ve come from abusive homes.
  • There isn’t a place for them. Their local authority could be struggling to house everyone they’re responsible for. And the way the government class them may affect whether they’re entitled to somewhere or not.
  • They can’t find a job. It’s becoming increasingly difficult for young people, in particular, to find work in the post-recession job market.
  • They can’t find a home. Because prices in the private-rented sector are simply too high.

What are the long-term effects of youth homelessness?

If you experience homelessness at a young age you’re at a greater risk of becoming homeless again, and developing complex problems later on in life. The solution isn’t a simple one. We need better, more integrated responses from agencies coming into contact with young people who are affected by homelessness, or at risk of becoming homeless. That’s why we’re really keen to develop innovative solutions that not only address the root causes; they help prevent homelessness in the long term too.

How can we prevent youth homelessness?

We’ve always supported youth homelessness charities – making two £20k grants to 1625ip in Bristol, and Depaul in London. These are two charities our team voted to support as part of our OVO Gives Back initiative. On top of the grants, we’ve been very hands-on; helping them out through volunteering.

Giving money and time is all very well, but we love finding innovative ways to fix things. Whether that’s a problem for our customers or a big social problem like youth homelessness. That’s why we’ve put our efforts into a scheme we’ve started called Future Builders. Here’s a bit about what it is and how it helps change lives:

  • Future Builders sees young homeless people in Bristol refurbishing homes that they’ll actually live in.
  • They’ll also gain skills for apprenticeships and employment in the future.
  • It’s a smart way to help them transition from supported housing to independent living.
  • And it tackles the problem by working with three important partners: the council, a local college and a local youth homeless charity. Each of these three play a big part in preventing youth homelessness, so bringing them all together is essential to finding a solution that really works, and really helps.

Read more about future builders here.

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