National Youth Homelessness Conference: Key Takeaways

LandAid CEO, Paul Morrish, recently joined a fantastic panel of speakers for the 2023 “Connect: The National Youth Homelessness Conference” in association with Centrepoint. 

The Coventry Arena event saw local and national organisations in the sector come together to discuss the growing issues facing young people experiencing homelessness in the UK. Through keynote speeches, break out discussions, and most valuably, an opportunity to hear from former Centrepoint residents, there are lessons, learnings and ultimately much action that needs to be taken to shape future work in ending the youth homelessness.   

So, what were the key takeaways from the event? 

  • Despite the government’s plans to end rough sleeping by 2024, the statistics paint a different picture, as the number of young people approaching their local council for housing support or with concerns about homelessness has increased from 122,000 to 129,000 in the past year.  
  • There is an urgent need for a cross-governmental Youth Homelessness Strategy, and the political will to deliver real change. Way too many young people are falling through the net, and as Centrepoint CEO, Seyi Obakin, made clear – we need to move from managing the problem, to ending it. This will require us to think differently about the problem, its solutions and how we innovate at speed to make a lasting impact. 
  • Better pathways into employment to break the cycle is one such starting point as well as stronger links between housing and employment. Supporting young people by providing better skills for living independently, as well as access to advice, is crucial to establishing an environment for development and progress – work should create freedom and a future for young people, but all too often it creates a greater worry about money and affording rent and bills.  

West Midlands Mayor, Andy Street, highlighted the genuine lack of affordable housing but singled out the St Basil’s ‘Live and Work scheme” supported by LandAid.

This scheme is helping to address the financial disincentive to work for young people, i.e. “making work pay”. (With support from LandAid, Phase 2 of the ground-breaking scheme is now underway and will deliver 54 self-contained apartments for young workers, providing a move-on steppingstone from the shared accommodation provided in Phase 1).  We must enable young people to work and live, rather than a system where people are backed into a corner.  We want to ensure that the link between homelessness and unemployment can be broken. 

  • There was a stark reminder that we must and cannot forget the larger forms of hidden homelessness, gender stereotyping, and high-risk relationships. Startling statistics from Solace Women’s Aid show that of women experiencing homelessness, one in five do so due to domestic violence. Alarmingly, one fifth of women are sexually assaulted whilst homeless, and despite an 88% increase in the number of women needing to seek out or stay in temporary accommodation, there has been a significant reduction in women only safe spaces. 
  • Ultimately, we need to stop young people becoming homeless in the first place – this might mean a shift in focus from purely dealing with the current crisis, to looking at the problem upstream.  “Upstream Cymru” is a school-based intervention which responds to the challenge of youth homelessness in Wales, intervening far earlier in the lives of young people and their families, identifying those at risk. Although the project is still in its early stages, a similar initiative deployed in Geelong, Australia (“The Geelong Project”) has shown this model can show success when a collective joined up approach is taken.  

        Collective action is exactly what is needed

At LandAid, we feel fortunate, as the property industry charity, to have strong connections and support from across the wider built environment industry, coming together in our mission to end youth homelessness. Too often the industry is seen as part of the problem and too seldom seen as part of the solution, but we have the opportunity to make a difference together.  

LandAid’s Build to Rent (BTR) Pathfinder initiative is one such way – we know that many young people facing homelessness are in work, education, or training, or are ready to live independently. But many live in expensive supported housing and hostels that they no longer need, that they can’t afford without Housing Benefit subsidy, and are desperate to move on from. The BTR initiative seeks a commitment from operators in the BTR and Co-Living sectors to donate units at heavily discounted rents, for an agreed term, to LandAid-supported charities, working with young people who have been homeless but are now ready for independent living. These homes will have a direct impact on those young people, helping them on their path to employment, secure housing, and a brighter future. (Watch this space for more info as this initiative develops).  

As the numbers of young people experiencing homelessness continue to rise, we need new ideas to help tackle the crisis, and renewed vigour, working together, to put those ideas into practice. Our industry in general is uniquely well placed to help. Our BTR supporters have a particularly valuable role, and we hope they grab the opportunity to work with us and make a difference.
LandAid CEO, Paul Morrish

There truly has never been a more important time to come together.

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