Homeless teen highlights concerns about housing provision for young people (From Darlington and Stockton Times)
Send us your pictures, video, news and views by texting DST to 80360 or email us
Homeless teen highlights concerns about housing provision for young people
A NORTH-EAST teenager has been sleeping rough in a park for months rather than take her chances with drug addicts and ex-offenders in a hostel.
The 19-year-old, who calls herself Pixie, has set up camp in Darlington's award-winning South Park following a family breakdown that left her on the streets.
The teenager contacted authorities and was offered temporary hostel or bed and breakfast accommodation – options which some experts say are unsuitable for the under-25s.
While sleeping rough in the Victorian park, Pixie has been attacked and threatened. Despite this, she stays in the park – believing it to be safer than a hostel or bed and breakfast.
She said: “I’d rather stay in the park because it’s safer.
“People in hostels are often addicts or they’ve just got out of prison and it is not a good environment.
“I don’t want to get mixed up with a bad crowd. If I go somewhere like that, I’ll end up in a worse position.”
She added: “I just want somewhere to go that is suitable. I don’t want to sleep in a park.
“All I want is to be able to lock a door and get some sleep. People take that as a given but it isn’t, not for people like me.”
Homeless charity Crisis is calling for a change in the law to help protect people like Pixie.
Katharine Sacks-Jones, Head of Policy and Campaigns at Crisis, said: “Vulnerable young people must be given proper support and appropriate accommodation, not left in unsuitable environments such as hostels and B&Bs.
“Those aged 18 and over usually aren’t entitled to accommodation or support and so find that their only options are homeless hostels, living on friends’ and families’ floors or with no option but the streets.
“This must change so councils not only fulfil their legal duties to younger teenagers, but also offer support to other homeless young people including those aged 18 and over who are not a priority for housing.
“There needs to be a change in the law so everyone facing homelessness is given help to access safe and secure housing and no one is left with nowhere to go.”
Pixie’s situation is one that faces a growing number of young people in the North-East, according to Jessie Jacobs, from A Way Out – a charity which works with vulnerable young women.
Ms Jacobs said: “There is not enough safe, stable housing provision for young women. Waiting lists for housing are long and there is more demand for one-bedroom properties since the bedroom tax was introduced.
“Bed and breakfasts and hostels can put them at risk in terms of substance misuse, sexual exploitation and criminal activity.
“They are concentrated with people from all sorts of backgrounds. We do outreach work to target bed and breakfasts because so many young women are at risk staying in them.
“The 16 to 25-year-olds are more vulnerable to sexual exploitation and addiction. “At that age, they may not be involved with such things and they are going into a situation with much older people who may be involved, which can be really challenging.”
Ms Jacobs called for more targeted and stable housing provision for young people in the region.
In Darlington, authorities are working together to try and tackle the issue, with the YMCA organisation offering self-contained accommodation to 16-25-year-olds for up to a year and temporary ‘crashpads’ available for up to six weeks.
However, demand is high and places are not always available immediately.
A spokeswoman from Darlington Borough Council said in that circumstance, young homeless people are assessed according to need and placed into the most suitable accommodation possible.
She said: “If a young person is placed in a B&B, only suitable places are offered and a support worker is available to give advice and assistance where needed.”
Comments are closed on this article.