David was 15 when he found himself on the streets of Glasgow. He left home to escape emotional and physical abuse he had suffered since childhood. He soon became homeless, was unable to complete his school exams and was socially isolated without the skills or support to find and create a home.
As a young person in Scotland, David’s story sadly is not unique.
National research confirms the scale of the problem facing 16-24 year olds. Of 27,202 successful homeless applications made in Scotland in 2016-17, 7,213 were aged 16-24.
Unsurprisingly, 42 per cent of under 24s applying have one or more additional support needs – 37 per cent have mental health issues; 10 per cent have drug or alcohol dependency and 19 per cent are care leavers.
Even after securing supported accommodation these barriers often contribute to young people remaining at high risk of losing the roof over their heads. In 2016-17, figures show that 1,421 local authority tenants and 830 housing association tenants were evicted.
Venture Trust, through a new partnership with Comic Relief and The Wheatley Group (a leading social property management company), supports young people struggling to find and secure safe, stable and supported tenancies because of multiple complex barriers. These can include unemployment, involvement in the criminal justice system, substance misuse, low self-belief, relationship breakdowns and mental health issues. Funding from Comic Relief (£177,757) for three years will help support 120 young people who have previously, or are currently at risk of, experiencing homelessness.
Independent research findings of Venture Trust’s current programmes highlight the barriers many of those presenting as homeless are facing – including young people.
Fifty-nine per cent have been previously convicted, 58 per cent have mental health issues and 52 per cent have struggled with substance misuse. This volatility makes it very difficult for them to sustain supported tenancies along with meaningful employment.
Venture Trust already has extensive and proven experience in supporting disadvantaged young people through programmes of personal development. By offering intensive learning and development in communities and the Scottish wilderness, we help people to gain life skills, stability and confidence. Our work aims to end cycles of disadvantage and adversity for individuals, their families and in communities.
Teaming up with funders and partners to help 16-24 year olds who have been homeless or are at risk of experiencing it, we can work together to tackle the over-representation of young people in the homeless population.
This involves a joined-up approach to engage vulnerable youth towards maintaining secure housing and improving life and relationship skills. It is possible to overcome past complex and chaotic life circumstances and for individuals to be ready to take up employability offered by partners and other services. Fundamental ‘building blocks’ of moving out of homelessness for many people are employability and employment.
This project is designed to equip individuals with core skills, build longer term stability and avert repeat or potential episodes of homelessness.
It also aligns well with the Housing First approach – the response for people with complex needs facing multiple disadvantages – with a focus on underlying issues such as low resilience, lack of motivation and aspiration.
Personal and interpersonal skills essential to supporting changes in behaviour, choices and attitudes that have contributed to a person being homeless or has left them at risk of losing their tenancies will be developed. A Housing First model is effective. It recognises a safe and secure home is the best base for addressing the issues that put someone on the street in the first place.
But without empowering individuals to focus on their strengths and equipping them with essential life-skills, confidence and belief that they can change, there is a risk they will again end up as a statistic and a cycle of harm repeats itself.
There is a real appetite in Scotland to tackle homelessness. However, with political focus on providing affordable housing, there is a gap for supporting individuals at risk of losing supported tenancies due to complex barriers to stability.
The time to create lasting positive change is now. Together, we can tackle a cycle of harm and inequality which leaves some people on the margins of society.
David completed Venture Trust’s Inspiring Young Futures programme and took part in our employability course. He was also signposted to our partner organisations for further training opportunities. He now lives in his own flat and has an apprenticeship with a leading UK car dealership.
For more information about Venture Trust visit www.venturetrust.org.uk
Amelia Morgan, chief executive officer at Venture Trust.