Around 150 young people are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless in Somerset – but help is on the way.
A new service to prevent youth homelessness and provide quality supported accommodation for young people aged 16-24 years old has been designed through a partnership of Somerset County Council, Mendip District Council, the other Somerset district councils, local youth housing providers and young people, building on existing good practice in the county.
Prevention of homelessness is key to the new service. Almost 50 per cent of young people in Somerset say family breakdown is the reason they made a housing enquiry. Through mediation work with families, educating young people in schools about the realities of homelessness and working with colleges and Pupil Referral Units, the service will identify young people at risk of becoming homeless early and help more young people return or stay at home.
Ongoing support and advice for young people with housing related issues is also very important. In a recent survey of young people resident in accommodation, 50 per cent were identified as needing a high level of support, and a significant proportion had drug and alcohol, mental health problems or were unable to keep themselves safe. The new service will provide a range of accommodation as well as support and advice to young people to help them into training or employment, improve their physical and emotional wellbeing and encourage them to live independently.
The new service, named Pathways to Independence, will be delivered by youth housing providers in the five districts. The service will be provided in Mendip by Mendip YMCA.
Cllr Nigel Woollcombe-Adams, Portfolio Holder for Built Environment at Mendip District Council, said: “I welcome this new initiative, which I’m confident will make a real difference to the lives of many young people who are homeless, or at risk of becoming homeless. Not only does the new service tackle homelessness it offers vital support to young people and promotes independent living.
“I’m also very pleased that the council is once again working in partnership with Mendip YMCA, who help to deliver a range of important services throughout the district.”
Karen Deverell, Chief Executive of Mendip YMCA, said: “We are delighted to have been awarded the contract for Mendip.
Mendip YMCA and Mendip District Council have led the way for many years in homeless prevention and we already have much of the pathway in place. Through it we have an opportunity to acquire additional accommodation which is so desperately needed for Mendip’s young people.
“We have a fantastic opportunity to further develop our services to achieve improved outcomes for young people in need. It is so important that in this current economic climate young people starting on their journey to adulthood have help at the earliest stage to prevent homelessness and support to realise their potential. We thank everyone who works in partnership with us and look forward to working together with you to strengthen and build the Pathway to Independence for young people in Mendip”
Chiara Yates, ex service user, said: “I supported Mendip YMCA with the tender process by being involved in the consultation exercise for young people and I helped with the presentation to the panel as part of the interview. I am so pleased that Mendip YMCA have been successful. They helped me when homeless, found me a home and supported me with my education. I now volunteer in Routes drop in centre, am a volunteer at Coleford Youth Club and at college. I want to work with young people and give something back because of all Mendip YMCA have helped me achieve. ”
Cllr Frances Nicholson, Somerset County Council’s Cabinet Member for Children and Families, said: “No young person should be living on the street. It is our priority to support and help young people to live a safe, healthy, stable and independent life. This new service will have a big impact on reducing the number of young people that are homeless in the county and will give vulnerable young people a more positive future.”
The contracts with the service providers will start on 1st May 2013.