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More than 22,000 young people are at risk of homelessness this Christmas

Youth homelessness charity Centrepoint mined local authority data to find out how many young people are spending the festive season without secure accommodation

So many young people are at risk of homelessness this Christmas that they could fill London’s O2 Arena, according to youth homelessness charity Centrepoint.

More than 22,000 vulnerable young people are facing the risk of ending up on the streets over the festive season, the charity claims after analysing local authority data.

That’s more than the 20,000 people who attend a sold-out gig at the O2 Arena.

And there is “urgent action needed” to protect youngsters from being forced into dangerous choices just to find a safe place to stay the night.

With the problem of youth homeless growing, we need to pull together and take urgent action to protect vulnerable young people

“In the last 50 years, thanks to our supporters, Centrepoint has been there for thousands of young people when they had nowhere else to turn,” said Centrepoint CEO Seyi Obakin. “However, for every person we reach, there are hundreds more who need support. With the problem of youth homeless growing, we need to pull together and take urgent action to protect vulnerable young people and make sure every young person has a safe place to call home and the future they deserve.”

The youth homelessness charity also carried out research attempting to measure the life-long emotional and health impact that homelessness can have. Their survey showed that 72 per cent of homeless young people warn of a negative impact on their mental health while 69 per cent said that they felt like no one cared about them. A further two-thirds told of the loneliness they felt while homeless.

Meanwhile, the survey also shows that feelings of shame and isolation also lead to young people hiding that they are homeless and that can push them to making decisions that end up with them on the streets.

A third of the youngsters quizzed have spent the night in a park when they had nowhere else to go while 17 per cent have done so more than once. Others spent nights in a tent or on the night bus, while hidden homelessness remains a major issue – 73 per cent of homeless young people admitted that they have “sofa-surfed” when they had no other option.

People did try and encourage me to get into dealing drugs which is tempting when you’ve got no money – but thankfully I didn’t go down that route

These figures will be no surprise to Jamie. At just 16 she was referred to Centrepoint by social services due to neglect and he has sought help from the charity on four different occasions over a period of six years.

Over this turbulent time, she has moved between her mum’s home, friend’s sofas, boyfriends and even a tent in a park when she had nowhere else to go.

But with the help of Centrepoint, who are celebrating their 50th anniversary this week, Jamie has now completed a postgraduate degree in dance and is working to set up a creative outreach project with the charity.

“I had to sleep rough at least three times,” she said. “It was really scary. I have a tent and I slept in a park for 24 hours at a time and then sought help from the hostel again. I don’t know how people sleep in tents on the concrete, it’s heart breaking.

“I had no money, food or clothes at one point. I ended up stripping for a couple of weeks. It was just a means to an end. People did try and encourage me to get into dealing drugs which is tempting when you’ve got no money – but thankfully I didn’t go down that route.”

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