22 September 2020, The Tablet

Catholic charities warn of rise in youth homelessness

Catholic charities warn of rise in youth homelessness

A homeless man sits on Oxford Street in London, England, on September 16, 2020.
David Cliff/NurPhoto/PA Images

Catholic charities have warned that youth homelessness is at the forefront of a significant rise in the number of people experiencing rough sleeping and other forms of homelessness. 

“If you care about homelessness, youth homelessness should be at the top of your agenda,” George O’Neill, chief executive of the Cardinal Hume Centre, told The Tablet. London rough sleeping figures showed a significant increase in numbers of young people in the first three months of the lockdown, he warned. This should be a priority, “not only because it is a tragic threat to the potential found in every young person, but because there is so much evidence to show that too often homelessness at a young age is repeated in later life. We feel we are seeing more examples of relationship and family breakdown, leaving young people without a home. We need a coordinated and preventative response that takes account of young people’s needs and their routes into homelessness.”

Depaul UK chief executive Mike Thiedke warned that the economic downturn could see a further increase in homelessness. “The number of people sleeping rough in London in quarter two of 2020 was 33 per cent higher than in the same period in 2019 and the outlook for the next six months is bleak.”

Depaul UK has continued to run supported accommodation services around the country during the pandemic, including three hotels for street homeless people.

He said that keeping the Nightstop emergency accommodation network running was challenging because a shortage of volunteer hosts, due to the pandemic, led to a two-thirds drop in the number of beds for a night that Depaul could provide.

The St Vincent de Paul Society reported last week that it is seeing a rise in poverty in the communities in which it works. Chief executive officer Elizabeth Palmer said: “The financial, emotional and health fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic has dragged many thousands of people below the poverty line.”

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