HOMELESSNESS is a problem that has particular poignancy at Christmas when the thoughts of many turn to being at home in the company of family and friends.
Yet the deeply worrying scale of homelessness amongst young people revealed today by the charity Centrepoint goes beyond mere poignancy and into the realms of danger.
The likelihood that up to 25,000 young and potentially vulnerable people may put themselves in harm’s way in their quest to find somewhere to sleep is illustrative of a serious social problem that Britain must find a way of addressing.
It is shameful that such a number of people – the equivalent of the population of a small town – should have nowhere to turn for shelter in one of the most prosperous countries in the world.
As a society, we have become painfully aware in recent years of how easily the young can fall victim to abuse, whether physical or sexual. Centrepoint is surely correct to warn that desperation to find a place to sleep will lead many young people to find themselves in situations of risk.
If the scale of the homelessness issue is to be tackled effectively, there needs to be a joined-up approach involving the Government and the charities which work so hard to help those on the streets.
A vicious cycle in which no home means little chance of finding work and building a normal life has to be broken. Sufficient resources also need to be put into addressing the problems that can leave young people on the streets, such as family breakdowns and mental health issues.
A crisis of youth homelessness on this scale simply cannot be ignored. It should be one of the Government’s New Year resolutions to work with all the agencies that seek to help to ensure this does not happen again.