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We don’t have the money to house London’s young homeless, Sadiq Khan warns

Many young people do not feel safe in all-age accommodation and have different support needs to older rough sleepers, the London mayor said

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has warned that authorities in the capital do not currently have sufficient funding to provide emergency accommodation for all the young people sleeping rough in the city this Christmas. 

The London Assembly passed a unanimous motion last week calling on Khan to dedicate a “suitable” amount of London’s rough sleeping funds to specialist support for young people experiencing homelessness. 

But the mayor said insufficient funds from the Government were preventing the ability to provide self-contained, emergency accommodation for all the young rough sleepers across London. 

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In a letter to rough sleeping and housing minister Kelly Tolhurst, Khan joined four youth homelessness charities in calling on the Government to invest in youth-specific homelessness support. 

They warned it was essential there were services for young people as temperatures became colder, adding many could be exposed to risk if placed in all-age accommodation.

The letter, which was signed by Khan and charities Centrepoint, New Horizon Youth Centre, AKT and Depaul, read: “There remains an acute need for specialist, self-contained accommodation for young people this winter. 

“Many young people do not feel safe in all-age accommodation, and have different support needs to older rough sleepers.

“The Greater London Authority would like to open pan-London, self-contained, emergency accommodation this winter, specifically for all young people who have been sleeping rough or are at risk of doing so, but there is currently not sufficient funding available from your department to do this. 

“Given the rapid onset of cold weather this year, we urge you to make this funding available so we can commission and open this service urgently.” 

According to data from Centrepoint, more than 20,000 young people could be homeless this Christmas. 

The number of young people recorded sleeping rough in the capital has also increased significantly this year. The latest figures from the Combined Homelessness and Information Network in London found the numbers increased by 47 per cent compared to 2019, with one in ten of the capital’s rough sleepers now under 25. 

Centrepoint warned back in October that youth homelessness was “a real, real issue” as the furlough scheme came to an end and work dried up. Experts have also warned the young “hidden homeless” are being left with nowhere to turn as a result of Covid restrictions outlawing sofa-surfing with friends and family.  

Seyi Obakin, chief executive of Centrepoint, said the Government needed to take urgent action to ensure young people without stable accommodation were not exposed to risk. 

Obakin said: “No one should be sleeping rough in this cold weather but the fact is that many young people feel they have no choice. 

“This isn’t good enough. We need to see more services which recognise young people need stability and tailored support but, in mixing them into services with older rough sleepers, there’s a real danger they’ll be exposed to further harm.

“There are too few bed spaces and not enough resources for homeless young people and, with the number of those at risk of homelessness soaring in London and across the country, the Government needs to act.” 

A spokesperson from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said: “We’ve taken unprecedented action to support the most vulnerable people in our society during the pandemic, and made extra support available this winter. We have invested £700 million to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping this year alone.

“The introduction of the Homelessness Reduction Act means that more young people are now getting the support they need to stop them becoming homeless in the first place.

“And we are supporting councils in a variety of other ways, including creating youth homelessness advisors, who offer vital training, advice and support.”