Shelter Cymru is launching a campaign today (26th February) to encourage the housing sector in Wales to end the practice of evicting young people into homelessness.
According to reports, last year more than 3,000 young people in Wales became homeless and had to use council homelessness services, while many more became ‘hidden’ homeless, sleeping on sofas and friends’ floors.
Last month also saw the launch of a major new Welsh government campaign to tackle off-street homelessness – targeted at young people who may be at risk of or already experiencing homelessness.
According to Shelter Cymru, eviction from social and supported housing was a “significant contributor” to youth homelessness, although precise numbers are unknown as no agencies currently record numbers of youth evictions.
To coincide with this campaign Shelter Cymru is also publishing a report based on interviews with young people, homelessness practitioners and people working in supported housing.
In this report, young people living in social and supported accommodation said that the potential for them to lose their homes in such a short space of time and for a whole host of reasons made them feel stressed, worried and unsettled.
Threats of eviction were described as having a negative impact on wellbeing and feelings of safety and security, with young people feeling that they were constantly reminded that the accommodation was not their home.
One young person said: “I was the first one evicted, it was a new project, it had literally just started about two or three weeks before I moved in there.
“Someone who moved in before I did was on his final warning before I even moved in – he’s now on the verge of being evicted, I’ve been evicted, someone else has been threatened with eviction, and so is the other person.”
The report found that some providers have zero-evictions policies already in place, while others admit that they do sometimes evict when they don’t know how else to manage situations.
As a result, youth homelessness is being created by the very services that are set up to prevent it, says the charity.
Shelter Cymru is now calling for a change to the system so that all young people who have a good chance of sustaining their own tenancy with support are enabled to do so.
Jennie Bibbings, campaigns manager at Shelter Cymru, said: “Because there is not enough housing that’s affordable for young people, supported accommodation has become the default.
“But supported accommodation is generally only affordable through welfare benefits, meaning that young people who have left care, or who have become homeless after leaving the family home, are being pushed into a system that actively prevents them getting employment and gaining independence.
“At the same time, because benefits are inadequate to meet young people’s basic needs they are experiencing poverty and in some cases going hungry.”
The charity is urging social landlords to step up provision of homes that young people can afford to live in, so that supported accommodation is no longer the default option.
It is also calling on all providers of social and supported housing to adopt a zero evictions approach, so that young people are “no longer kept in a constant state of insecurity with the threat of homelessness hanging over their head”.
Clarissa Corbisiero, Deputy Chief Executive and Director of Policy and External Affairs at Community Housing Cymru said: “Housing associations in Wales are committed to supporting people to prevent and solve the issues that can lead to someone losing their home.
“The case studies in this report are sobering and require change from across the public sector. Crucial to this is to increase the supply of stable social housing and funding essential services to enable young people to thrive and prosper.”
For more information on the campaign, visit: www.sheltercymru.org.uk/stop-the-cycle.