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A research perspective on causes and triggers of youth homelessness: what lessons for policy makers

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Presentation given by Deborah Quilgars, European Observatory on Homelessness and Centre for Housing Policy at University of York (EU) at the 2013 FEANTSA conference, "Investing in young people to prevent a lost generation: policy and practice in addressing youth homelessness" http://feantsa.org/spip.php?article1596&lang=en
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  • 1. A research perspective on causes and triggers of youth homelessness: what lessons for policy makers? Deborah Quilgars, Centre for Housing Policy, University of York, England Investing in young people to prevent a lost generation in Europe: key policy and practice in addressing youth homelessness 8th November 2013, Prague, Czech Republic
  • 2. Transitions to adulthood ‘Youth homelessness can be conceptualised as the outcome of a process of failed transitions’ (Avramov, 1998, p106) Transition from childhood to adulthood is complex Housing transition affected by/ impact on other transitions (school-to-work, domestic) Increasingly extended transitions Not a linear transition (particularly important to be able to return to parental home) Long process, young people need support over time Investing in young people to prevent a lost generation in Europe: key policy and practice in addressing youth homelessness 8th November 2013, Prague, Czech Republic
  • 3. Pathways into homelessness Some young people more at risk of faltered or interrupted transitions – which may include youth homelessness Research suggests a distinct ‘youth’ pathway into homelessness – when young people are forced to leave ‘home’ at early age/ stage (MacKenzie and Chamberlain, 2003): Conflict in parental home Leaving ‘care’ – child care systems pulling back at age 16 or 18 or 21 Young migrants/ unaccompanied asylum seekers Investing in young people to prevent a lost generation in Europe: key policy and practice in addressing youth homelessness 8th November 2013, Prague, Czech Republic
  • 4. Causes/ triggers Disrupted/ traumatic childhoods, rarely just one ‘trigger’ Review of studies indicates that young people are likely to have experienced family disruption (separation/ divorce and/or the arrival of a step-parent) experienced difficult relationships with parents witnessed or experienced violence high levels of mental health problems lived in a family that experienced financial difficulties run away from home (often early age and more than once) spent time in care been involved in crime or anti-social behaviour had their education severely disrupted Investing in young people to prevent a lost generation in Europe: key policy and practice in addressing youth homelessness 8th November 2013, Prague, Czech Republic
  • 5. : Understanding causation Most research concentrated on ‘triggers’/ family and personal backgrounds Structural/ institutional factors implicated in individual outcomes – less research on wider factors affecting homelessness: socio-economic situation; welfare (and institutional) systems; cultural assumptions/ role of family in society Welfare systems affect homelessness (Stephens et al, 2010); CSEHYP project highlighted differences between UK/ NL and PT/ CZ Investing in young people to prevent a lost generation in Europe: key policy and practice in addressing youth homelessness 8th November 2013, Prague, Czech Republic
  • 6. : Impact of wider factors on leaving home Income poverty Family poverty/ financial pressures on family as child becomes young adult Housing deprivation Negative area effects Limited opportunities Discrimination for some groups Lack of supports to families at risk Investing in young people to prevent a lost generation in Europe: key policy and practice in addressing youth homelessness 8th November 2013, Prague, Czech Republic
  • 7. Ability to access housing on leaving Poor access to independent housing Landlords (social and private) will not usually accept tenancies from young people Lack of support (unlike students) Poorly positioned in labour markets, cannot secure sufficient income to meet housing costs Welfare payments to meet housing costs are either restricted or not provided for young people (assuming that young people will stay at home until mid 20s) Investing in young people to prevent a lost generation in Europe: key policy and practice in addressing youth homelessness 8th November 2013, Prague, Czech Republic
  • 8. Causation in summary… Never just one single cause Young people’s needs, characteristics and experiences (element of serendipity (Gaetz, 2013)) Poor family and peer supports/ social capital Economic marginalisation and poorer life chances than the general population All in context of structural barriers to housing, work and welfare systems Result is ‘chaotic’ housing pathways (Ford et al, 2002) Investing in young people to prevent a lost generation in Europe: key policy and practice in addressing youth homelessness 8th November 2013, Prague, Czech Republic
  • 9. What else do we know? High levels of hidden homelessness – young people often ‘exhaust’ contacts over time Young people may have asked for help/ approached agencies before homeless Homelessness is detrimental to health and well- being  Mainstream homelessness services may not be desirable or safe The longer that a young person is homeless, the harder it is to exit homelessness (Mayock et al, 2012) Investing in young people to prevent a lost generation in Europe: key policy and practice in addressing youth homelessness 8th November 2013, Prague, Czech Republic
  • 10. Implications for policy/practice 1 Intervene early to reduce risks, supporting families/ young people at risk (where safe) Homelessness sector can undertake targeted work But also need for government level programmes …and changes to welfare systems Clear association with child care services Policy change/ improvements needed in most countries Prevention services can be effective (at point facing homelessness) Eg. family mediation; financial assistance Emergency services – quick response needed, ensure that people do not get stuck in provision Investing in young people to prevent a lost generation in Europe: key policy and practice in addressing youth homelessness 8th November 2013, Prague, Czech Republic
  • 11. Implications for policy/practice 2 Specialised supportive environments For the very young/ those not lived independently Foyer(-type) models offering help with education and employment/ support networks etc More generally, specialist ‘integrated’ services to address all aspects of young person’s life Creation of affordable housing pathways – access to social housing and private rented sector Housing First for some people, supported by mobile workers Investing in young people to prevent a lost generation in Europe: key policy and practice in addressing youth homelessness 8th November 2013, Prague, Czech Republic
  • 12. Implications for policy/practice 3 Different policies for different young people? – young families, migrants, young people in mid- late twenties Address poverty and social exclusion: Access to education, training and work Welfare benefits to support interrupted transitions Campaigning against poverty, and for better deal for young people – not easy in current context but crucial given young people are usually hardest hit in economic downturn Investing in young people to prevent a lost generation in Europe: key policy and practice in addressing youth homelessness 8th November 2013, Prague, Czech Republic
  • 13. Thank you for listening Deborah.quilgars@york.ac.uk Centre for Housing Policy www.york.ac.uk/chp European Observatory on Homelessness www.feantsaresearch.org/ Investing in young people to prevent a lost generation in Europe: key policy and practice in addressing youth homelessness 8th November 2013, Prague, Czech Republic
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