HELPING THE HOMELESS
An innovative new project called Breathing Space Lancashire has recently been set up and is working to prevent homelessness in Young People across East Lancashire
With awareness increasing around the impact that homelessness can have on young people’s lives, a youth homelessness intervention project is working to prevent homelessness in young people across East Lancashire.
Breathing Space Lancashire aims to tackle the rising issue of homelessness amongst young people aged 14 to 25 by encouraging young people to reach out for help before they become homeless, as well as providing support for families and carers of young homeless people.
Breathing Space Lancashire is one of the Homelessness Prevention Trailblazer Pilots, a government initiative funded by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, to prevent youth homelessness across the districts of Ribble Valley, Burnley, Pendle, Rossendale, Hyndburn and Blackburn with Darwen. Breathing Space Lancashire is delivered by Lancashire County Council, in partnership with a number of charities, including Ynot Aspire, SafeSpace and Nightsafe to offer services to young people at risk of becoming homeless, with the aim of preventing them from becoming homeless before it happens.
By engaging with young people in the early stages of any issues that could result in them becoming homeless, Breathing Space Lancashire helps young people to find the best solution to keep them safe. These services include mediation between young people and their family members, offering counselling and advice, and providing both emergency and supported accommodation.
Breathing Space Lancashire has used social media such as Facebook and Instagram to reach young people in a bid to encourage them, or their friends and family members, to contact the organisation if they’re worried about homelessness. The website offers an online chat where users can speak directly to a member of the Breathing Space Lancashire team in confidence. Young people can also get in touch with the charity through its Facebook message system, or by phoning or texting the contact numbers provided on its Facebook page and website. So far, Breathing Space has received over 500 referrals to its service.
Youth homelessness is prevalent across the entirety of the UK, including Lancashire, although it’s difficult to estimate exactly how many young people are homeless. The youth homelessness charity Centrepoint states that 103,000 young people in the UK asked for help in 2018, but many young homeless people are overlooked and are not shown in official figures. These people are known as the ‘hidden homeless’, as they might not be sleeping rough on the streets, but instead are often sofa surfing, sleeping on floors, or staying with friends or strangers, with no fixed home of their own.
Breathing Space Lancashire identifies a number of factors that can result in a young person becoming homeless, but the most prevalent cause of youth homelessness is a breakdown of family relationships. This can result in the young person being asked to leave home due to financial strains or a negative family relationship. Young people are also sometimes forced to leave to get away from problems in their household, such as domestic abuse or violence, family members with mental health issues, or substance abuse or addiction in the family home.
As well as the personal problems that have an impact on young people, there are a number of external factors contributing towards youth homelessness across Lancashire, including high private rent costs, a shortage of shared accommodation for young people, and a shortage of social housing in comparison to the demand for it. Many young people are also reliant upon zero hours contracts and seasonal work, which can lead to deprivation and impact their ability to afford rent, or to be accepted by landlords, who are often biased towards professional tenants in full-time employment.
Since October 2017, Breathing Space Lancashire has helped over 500 young people who were referred to the project. Around 62 per cent of young people approached Breathing Space Lancashire to help with homelessness prevention, such as mediation services, whilst 38 per cent of people who contacted the charity did so for relief services, including emergency accommodation and counselling. Breathing Space Lancashire also treat all enquiries in complete confidence.
Louise Procter, project coordinator at Breathing Space Lancashire, said: “Our main goal is to prevent homelessness before it happens. We know that asking for help can be difficult and sometimes scary, so by using our online web chat and social media pages, young people at risk of homelessness are able to get in touch with us in a way in which they feel comfortable. We’re then able to help those young people in any way that they need.
“We also offer support to friends and family members, so if you’re worried about a young person becoming homeless, please get in touch with us and we’ll do all that we can to help.”
* If you need to contact the Breathing Space Lancashire team, text 07395 832660 or for help in the Ribble Valley, call 01254 352592