1 April 2020

Since restrictions were imposed earlier this month in a bid to curb the spread of the virus, Centrepoint said it had received at least one call every weekday from the so-called hidden homeless - vulnerable people, aged between 16 to 25, who have suddenly lost their accommodation.

Among those calling the Freefone Centrepoint Helpline are youngsters who have been laid off or who have lost accommodation attached to a job, the charity said.

Other reasons people have called for help include having to leave a place they were "sofa-surfing" so hosts could self-isolate. Some said they only had grandparents to live with, whom they did not want to expose to the virus. 

The helpline, established with help from an Evening Standard charity appeal, currently offers young people advice on their rights and where to go for help. 

But the charity said those phoning the helpline are finding it difficult to contact their housing authorities amid the pandemic.

It comes as the charity’s new findings from its annual Youth Homelessness Databank report, released on Tuesday, revealed that more than 100,000 young people across the country approached their local authority for support because they were homeless or at risk of homelessness in 2018-19. 

Between January and March this year, when the pandemic broke out, the figures suggest more than 3,500 young Londoners approached their council.

The charity now expects that number to rise, and called on the government to ensure the young “hidden homeless” are not forgotten amid its provision for rough sleepers.

It is calling for young people to be provided with support and age-appropriate accommodation, and when housed, to not be placed in hotels with rough sleepers, where they may be exposed to dangers.

Centrepoint Chief Executive Seyi Obakin, said: “The government has repeatedly told everyone to stay at home – but that is simply not possible for some of the country’s most vulnerable young people.

“What happens when a young person has nowhere else to go is crucial. This research shows how some local authorities were already struggling to find the resources to help those young people approaching them because they were facing homelessness. In the middle of an unprecedented pandemic, we must not get into a situation where housing offices are closing their doors and no alternative provision is in place to help those needing their support.

"The government is already stepping up support for homeless young people but they need to go further and ensure every local authority continues to provide support and by ensuring that charities and councils have enough funding to carry out their responsibilities.”

The new data also showed that in England, where 90,000 approached their local authority, only one in three received a “positive outcome” - where homelessness or risk of homelessness was resolved by either preventing it or alternative accommodation was found.

An MHCLG spokesperson said: “This is a huge joint effort, and we all need to come together – the UK Government, local councils, charities, health and care services and accommodation providers –  to get everyone who is sleeping rough off the streets and into appropriate accommodation.

“We are supporting councils in England with £3.2 million to specifically help rough sleepers and a further £1.6 billion to respond to the wider pressures during this national emergency.”

Source: Evening Standard