Young homeless numbers on the rise, says Citizens Advice

By Frankie McCamley
Newsbeat reporter

media captionCarla talks about running away from home at the age of 12

The number of 17 to 24-year-olds who are homeless is on the rise, according to new figures from Citizens Advice.

During 2012-13, 4,529 people asked for help, an increase of 57% from 2007-08 when the service received 2,890 calls.

The government says youth unemployment is falling and that it is investing £470m in stopping homelessness.

"The rise is a very clear indicator of the impact the recession has had on this age group," said Rachael Holmes from Citizens Advice.

"Obviously this is just a sample of the number of young people out there struggling."

The charity says young people have been hit particularly hard by the recession, especially when it comes to finding a job at the initial stages of their career.

They also say higher house prices and inflated rent costs are making it harder for 17 to 24-year-olds to make ends meet.

The number of people getting in touch because they were about to become homeless but were still living in a house or flat went up from 5,461 to 7,576 between 2007-08 and 2012-13 as well.

Citizens Advice says many of the calls are made because people are unable to pay their rent and are being forced to leave their homes.

Housing charity Shelter says homelessness does not always mean having to sleep on the street but can include using a friend's sofa or spare room, or living in a squat.

Eighteen-year-old Carla, whose full identity we are protecting, turned to Citizens Advice last year.

media captionCitizens Advice spokeswoman gives her tips on dealing with homelessness

She ran away from home at the age of 12 because, she said, she was physically abused.

"[There were] regular beatings," she said. "The day I left, my jaw was broken and my skull was fractured.

"I went to my dad's but he was an alcoholic and he couldn't look after me. I got fostered by someone on the street and then my auntie took me in."

She says she then moved into her boyfriend's and worked on a nut stall in a market.

"I was working for about 48 hours a week and I wasn't even earning £400 [a month]."

Citizens Advice is warning that government cuts to the support available for young people could make it harder for them to find work.

It says a support structure needs to be put in place to help young people develop the skills they need to increase their employability.

image copyrightPA

The Department for Work and Pensions says an extra £190m was given to councils last year to support vulnerable people through its welfare reforms.

Carla says she remembers the day she went to her local council to ask for help.

"I turned up with the majority of my bags," she said. "I said, 'I have nowhere to live and no friends or family to stay with. I've just lost my job and I really need help.'

"They didn't ask me any questions and didn't take me seriously because of my age. I left really angry."

She says she then became homeless and moved from one house to the next.

"Sometimes I'd stay at a friend's one night, sometimes I'd stay a week," she said. "It felt horrible. It feels trampy.

"You haven't got your own home, you go to work in the day and think, 'What am I going to do tonight? What am I going to eat tonight?'

"I was getting really ill and really thin and not sleeping."

After a few months, someone in the street told her about a Citizens Advice branch.

"I had an appointment with them, they took everything down and said they'll try to help me. It was a relief."

Carla says she has now secured a job in a call centre and has just moved into a shared house.

"I just appreciate what I've got now," she said. "I've got this place and I'm proud of myself. It's not the nicest or most fancy place, but it's mine and I've done it."

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