What is youth homelessness?

What is youth homelessness?

Homelessness is more than just sleeping on the streets. While this can be the most dangerous, and most visible, form of homelessness, it is just the tip of the iceberg.

Homelessness means not having a place to call home – a place that is private, secure, decent and affordable and where you have a right to stay. Having a roof over your head is not enough, as Mark’s story shows.

If it is unsafe for you to stay where you are, if you cannot afford to live there or you are forced to constantly move, you can still be considered homeless. 

Homelessness can affect young people at any age but it most commonly hits those aged 16-25.

What are the main causes?

There are a range of factors that can lead to a young person becoming homeless. The single biggest cause is family breakdown, which was a factor in almost half of youth homelessness cases last year. This is where young people are unable to continue living with their parents or care-givers for reasons such as conflict, violence and sexual abuse. Read Alice and Brad's stories to hear how family breakdown can lead to a young person becoming homeless. 

Personal problems such as mental health difficulties or alcohol and drug abuse can leave young people more vulnerable to becoming homeless. Young people from certain backgrounds are also more likely to fall victim to homelessness, with young offenders, refugees, and those who have been in care all more at risk.  

Various social problems can also lead to homelessness: low incomes, unemployment, lack of education and training and housing shortages can all play a part. Welfare cuts can worsen the situation, with many young people using homelessness services potentially being hit by proposals to end automatic housing support. 

Want to find out more?

The statistics on this page came from Homeless Link's latest report on youth homelessness, 'Young and Homeless'. For more research from the national membership charity for organisations tackling homelessness, visit their website.

For independent facts on the causes of poverty and disadvantage, including homelessness, go to The Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

For more information, help and guidance on homelessness, go to Shelter.