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Awareness and collaboration: New Radical's impact on End Youth Homelessness Cymru

When people think of homelessness they usually think of people sleeping on the streets, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. There are many kinds of homelessness, rough sleeping is just the most visible form.

For every young person you see on the streets, we estimate you can multiply that by at least 6 or 7 to get a true extent of the picture for young people, who often don’t even recognise they are either homeless or on the cusp of homelessness.

Many young people start on the cusp, staying with a relative, then on a friend’s mum’s sofa, then more sofa surfing, then on floors, in cars or, worse still, with strangers. As they do not recognise their situation or how dangerous it is, these young people are often hidden from services, which leaves them vulnerable to being targeted and extremely susceptible to unscrupulous people.

Each year, over 7,000 people under the age of 25 in Wales ask for help with homelessness. This is in addition to the many more who don’t know where to turn or ask for help

Last year, 76 per cent of the young people Llamau worked with said they had no idea where to turn for help and support.

How do you tackle youth homelessness? How do you prevent homelessness? How do you bring about real change? These are the questions Llamau asked itself as we approached our 30th year. We knew we were already successful in working with young people who had become homeless, enabling them to develop the skills and confidence to move forward with their lives, but our work on prevention made us realise we could do a lot more. We needed to get to young people before they endured the misery, danger and fear of being homeless.

The challenge was to draw everyone together; no one person, organisation, sector or government could achieve this. We looked to the End Youth Homelessness Cymru partnership, which started as a partnership between five Welsh charities, led by Llamau.

The partnership’s first success was to end the use of B&Bs to house vulnerable young people in Wales. We wanted to raise awareness of the fact that homeless young people were being housed in B&Bs alongside recently released offenders, putting them at unacceptable risk of abuse or exploitation. Michael Sheen threw his support behind the campaign and launched a petition calling for an end to the practice, which was signed by more than 100,000 people.

After meeting with representatives from the campaign, Welsh government issued a change in its guidance for local authorities around the use of B&B accommodation, specifying that it could only ever be used as a last resort.

Using that experience, we set ourselves a huge and bold challenge: to end youth homelessness in Wales within a generation. In 2017, we joined forces with Michael Sheen, who agreed to be our patron. Together with Welsh Government, the Future Generations commissioner, the Children’s Commissioner and the leader of the Welsh Local Government Association, we launched our 10-year campaign to end youth homelessness in Wales.

End Youth Homelessness Cymru is now a coalition of a huge range of organisations including local authorities, businesses, health authorities, charities and youth justice representatives. We are starting by prioritising the preventative programme: tackling youth homelessness when young people are vulnerable or on the cusp of homelessness.

The inclusion of the campaign in the New Radicals list has been invaluable for its success. It brought attention to our campaign and, vitally, it drew focus on the issue of youth homelessness which, due to being an often invisible issue, tended not to get the same attention that rough sleeping draws.

The young people we support are at the heart of End Youth Homelessness Cymru and their views, needs and concerns are the driving force behind the campaign.

Not only did being included in the New Radicals list open doors for us, it provided a platform for the people we support to really make their voices heard

Being included in the list validated the work we were doing and authenticated the issue as something we all had to get together to tackle.

It also allowed us to work with fellow New Radicals. At the end of last year, we ran a crowdfunding appeal with Crowdfunder — one of the New Radicals of 2014 — and raised over £15,000 towards a 24-hour dedicated helpline for young homeless people in Wales, for which we hope to have secured funding by this summer.

We are now hard at work pushing ahead with plans to achieve our ambition. This includes commissioning research to analyse how young people are falling through the cracks of existing services and learning from and contributing to best practice around the world in ending youth homelessness.

Youth homelessness is a complex issue, but one which we believe can end. It’s a bold ambition, but if we all work together, we really will end youth homelessness in Wales.

Find out more about the End Youth Homelessness Cymru campaign here.

End Youth Homelessness Cymru were a 2016 New Radical. Find out more, apply or nominate a New Radical for 2018

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Frances Beecher

End Youth Homelessness Cymru is a 10-year campaign to end youth homelessness in Wales. Launched in 2017, the campaign brings together politicians, business leaders, statutory partner...