The number of young people seeking help for homelessness across Cherwell has surged, according to a district-based youth charity.
BYHP (Banbury Young Homelessness Project) – which does a lot of work in Bicester – supported 886 young people across the Cherwell area from April 2012 to April 2013. Out of these, 120 were homeless and the remaining 766 were youngsters accessing a number of prevention programmes run by the charity, including family mediation.
And from April to September this year, the charity has already exceeded the number of people it supported for homelessness throughout 2012/13 and helped a further 500 people across all services – a substantial increase.
Chief executive Anna Day said young people were facing ‘massive issues’ after changes to the benefits system and the charity was under ‘tremendous strain’ with growing demand for support, particularly among young people with learning difficulties.
“The increase in demand comes at a time when funding is increasingly tight and crisis projects are often seen as preferential investments, rather than projects that prevent young people becoming homeless in the first place,” she said.
The charity does outreach work in Bicester and receives a lot of referrals from the Bicester Early Intervention Hub, alongside social services.
Kim Hopkinson, BYHP’s volunteer and funding co-ordinator, said: “It’s mainly our family mediation and housing advice work that we do in Bicester, with home visits, phone calls and meetings. A lot of our work is unrecognised as we don’t have a physical base there, yet it forms a significant part of our work.”
Twenty-one-year-old B from Bicester, who wishes to remain anonymous, turned her life around with the help of the charity. She got addicted to drugs when she became homeless at 18. She became addicted to heroin and got in trouble with the law for handling.
BYHP helped her find short-term accommodation, while mediating with her family, supporting her to move in with her aunt. She has given up drugs, and has been engaging in counselling to resolve the mental health issues that led to her breakdown. She now has a job and started college in September this year.
“BYHP has literally saved my life, if it wasn’t for BYHP then I would have ended up on the streets. Going to them helped me to see what I was doing wrong and put a range of steps in place to support myself,” she said.
Since August 2012, Cherwell District Council has received reports of 16 youngsters under the age of 25 sleeping rough; five of them were in the Bicester area. At a meeting of the council’s executive on Monday, members approved the implementation of the Homelessness Prevention Action Plan 2013 – 2015 with a view to reducing the number of people without permanent accommodation.