HALF of all homeless people first take to the streets under the age of 21, with most suffering the experience more than once because of lack of help, according to a new report.
A study of 480 single homeless people for Crisis found that a third were under 18 when they first became homeless.
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Two thirds of those who became homeless under the age of 16 go on to face the same problem five or more times, the research found.
The report, covering England, Wales and Scotland, said people who become homeless at a young age often face a “vicious cycle” that leaves them vulnerable to violence, substance abuse and problems with mental and physical health.
The charity, which opens centres today for homeless people over Christmas, called for more political action to tackle the problem.
Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, said: “Homelessness is a horrifying experience for anyone, but it is especially damaging for young people, who often become homeless again and again because they can’t get the help they need. This is a tragic waste of young lives. We need to make sure people can get help at an early stage.
“Everyone deserves a second chance. Yet the sad reality is that homeless people who ask their councils for help are being turned away to sleep on the streets. That’s why Crisis is calling on party leaders to review the support given to single homeless people under the law. In this day and age, no one should face the horrors of the streets.”
The study found that three out of five first become homeless after a household dispute, while a similar number of homeless women have suffered violence or abuse from a partner.
A Department of Health spokesman said: “Improving the health of homeless people and tackling the health inequalities they face is a Government priority. That is why we are spending more than £50 million to increase access to primary healthcare services, improve hospital discharge arrangements and refurbish accommodation facilities for the homeless.”
Homelessness Minister Kris Hopkins said: “We are determined to get effective support to the most vulnerable in society, especially young people and the single homeless who may have fallen into homelessness due to any number of problems. A joined up approach that works for them cannot only be about providing accommodation.
“To properly turn around their lives we also need to deal with all of their problems and find ways to get them the skills they need to get back into work and look after themselves for the long term.
“That is why we recently announced funding of £23 million to help the most vulnerable homeless young people in the country and the single homeless get their lives back on track. This money will pay for sustained housing, employment and educational support for those with the greatest needs, helping them find accommodation, gain qualifications and move into work.”
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