Youth homelessness exacerbated by benefit reform, say housing workers (From Darlington and Stockton Times)
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Youth homelessness exacerbated by benefit reform, say housing workers in Darlington
HOUSING workers in a North-East town have said recent welfare reforms are exacerbating the problem of youth homelessness.
More young people could be left without a roof over their heads as welfare reforms begin to bite, according to housing charities in Darlington.
Government cuts, the controversial bedroom tax and cuts to housing benefits for under-35s are putting young people and the organisations struggling to help them under increasing pressure, say housing workers in the town.
Firststop – a homeless charity in Darlington – has drastically cut opening hours and staff numbers as a result of cuts to the charity sector.
At the same time, it faces a rise in demand, with more people asking for help as they struggle to find suitable and affordable accommodation in a tough economic climate.
The organisation must now do more with less resources, with its chief executive saying issues faced by housing organisations and their clients could worsen.
Tracy Freeman said: “I worry that it may get to a point where more kids are made homeless simply because of welfare reforms.
“It is all is too fast and too soon. “The reforms come from different government groups who do not work together to see low income families are getting hit from all angles.
“It is a frustrating time for young people and it will snowball with everywhere seeing an increase in people asking for help.
“There is the potential to see more young people in real difficulty.
“We do not want this situation to get to crisis point, prevention is still better than cure.”
The Tees Valley YMCA provides supported living 16 to 25-year-olds who are homeless or at risk from homelessness.
Housing manager Karen Johnson said many problems faced by their clients relate to benefit reforms.
She said: “In September, we get an influx of 16-year-olds whose parents have had benefits stopped and cannot afford to keep them.
“Or a relationship might breakdown, leaving one party having to pay bedroom tax and ending up unable to afford to stay.
“Single occupants cannot afford to live on their own and we do not have the luxury of building one-bedroom flats all over the town.”
National charity Crisis believes young people and families are disproportionately impacted by recent welfare reforms. For more information on its campaign to reverse benefit cuts, visit crisis.org.uk.
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