SPECIAL REPORT: Is welfare reform behind an 80 per cent rise in homelessness in Doncaster?
As new figures reveal homelessness in Doncaster has increased by 80 per cent since 2010, we take a look at the potential reasons for the steep rise in the number of rough sleepers.
Homelessness is a complex issue that affects tens of thousands of people across the country - a fifth of whom are aged 24 and under.
The number of people in Doncaster affected by the issue has risen by 80 per cent since 2010, and many of those include young rough sleepers are in the vulnerable group of 16 to 24 year olds.
But why is it that so many of Doncaster’s young people are ending up on the streets?
Assistant chief executive at Doncaster YMCA, Olivia Barton, says the two biggest contributing factors in Doncaster are welfare reform and problems within a family unit, something she says been put under more strain during ‘times of austerity’.
She said: “Welfare reform has affected young people because there isn’t enough affordable housing out there.
“The cap on housing benefit for a single person living alone is around £53 a week in Doncaster, which isn’t enough to cover the rent for most housing out there.”
“The pressure a family is under is made my worse under times of austerity because it’s more difficult to feed members of a family, which can lead to tensions and fractured relationships.
“For some of the young people we’ve helped things have got so bad that they’ve been living in sheds or tents in the garden- just so they don’t have to be in the main house with their family.”
At YMCA Doncaster’s premises on Wood Street they have 30 rooms which are used as temporary accommodation for homeless people aged between 16 and 25, and last year they provided 1,400 good night’s sleep for young people across the borough.
They also support young people to access college courses to gain employability skills - and in the case of some help them to learn basic life lessons around things such personal hygiene.
But one of the things YMCA Doncaster also aims to do is to create awareness of youth homelessness and the fact it can ‘happen to anyone,’ according to charity’s business support and marketing manager, Lee-Ann Clark.
People can become homeless for a range of different reasons.
For Doncaster woman, Tracey*, that reason was her mum’s refusal to accept she was gay.
Tracey, who lost contact with both her father and siblings when her parents separated, was then thrown out of the house by her mum when she was just 16-years-old.
This led to her becoming homeless, which in turn led to Tracey moving in with a very new partner; who quickly became violent with her. Tracey was then the victim of domestic violence for four years, after which time she was removed from the property by the police for her own protection.
She then went to stay with an aunt in another part of the country, but history repeated itself when she moved back to Doncaster and found herself living with another abusive partner.
But after an acquaintance was able to recognise the signs of an abusive relationship she was put in touch with YMCA Doncaster .
The charity was was able to intervene before the situation forced her to become homeless once more.
To register as homeless call Doncaster Council.
*Not her real name. FACT BOX: • In the first quarter of this year 3,290 young people were accepted as being homeless by local authorities across the country.
• This works out as around 22 per cent of the total number of people accepted as homeless by councils.
• In Doncaster a total of 37 people were accepted as being homeless during this same period.
• This is out of 129 people who applied to be registered as homeless with the local authority
• According to housing charity Crisis, around 62 per cent of young homeless people are what is referred to as being the ‘hidden homeless’.
• The charity says this means they exist ‘out of sight’ in bed and breakfast accommodation, squats, on the floors or sofas of friends and families or sleeping rough.
• The total number of people registered in Doncaster has risen by 80 per cent since 2010.
• Doncaster YMCA supports young homeless people aged between 16 and 24. It was formed in the town in 1857.
• It will hold a Sleep Easy fundraiser next March, all the proceeds from which will be used to help young rough sleepers in Doncaster