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What is youth homelessness and how can the property and construction industry in the South West address it, Gavin Bridge, Cubex discusses

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Being named as the South West’s most influential person in property in Insiders ‘Property Power List’ came as somewhat of a surprise. Particularly as I’m sharing the list with Prince Charles, Mayor of Bristol Marvin Rees and Grand Designs presenter Kevin Macloud rubbing shoulders with architects, developers and other public servants from across the region.

Taking advantage of my 15 minutes in the spotlight gives me an opportunity to highlight some issues that are very important to me and I’d like to begin with youth homelessness.

It is my firm view that those in positions of responsibility and influence in property and construction have a duty to do what they can using their skills, capital and supply chains to address the real problem we have in the UK with youth homelessness. Did you know that this year, around 86,000 young people in the UK will be homeless?

Homelessness is more than just sleeping on the streets. While this can be the most dangerous, and most visible, form of homelessness, it is just the tip of the iceberg.
Homelessness means not having a place to call home – a place that is private, secure, decent and affordable and where you have a right to stay. If it is unsafe for you to stay where you are, if you cannot afford to live there, or you are forced to constantly move, you can still be considered homeless.

For many young people this is a dangerous reality. Welfare reforms and a worsening housing crisis have increasingly taken away young people’s options. In my work with LandAid I’ve seen how many young people are trapped in a cycle of homelessness, moving from sofa to sofa, not knowing where they will sleep that night. Removing a stable home makes everything else more difficult: holding down a job, staying in school or education, even just keeping yourself clean and looking presentable. The single biggest cause is family breakdown, which according to LandAid was a factor in almost half of youth homelessness cases last year. This is where young people are unable to continue living with their parents or care-givers for reasons such as conflict, violence and sexual abuse.

Personal problems such as mental health difficulties or substance abuse issues can leave young people more vulnerable to becoming homeless. And once young people fall into homelessness, these problems are more likely to become more acute. Young people from certain backgrounds are also more likely to fall victim to homelessness, with care leavers, refugees, and young people in the criminal justice system more at risk.

Various social problems can also lead to homelessness: low incomes, unemployment, lack of education and training and housing shortages can all play a part. Welfare reforms can worsen the situation, with delayed Universal Credit payments, sanctions and the capping of the Local Housing Allowance all having an impact.

So what can those in property and construction do about it? Well I’d urge anyone who feels they can offer time and expertise to make contact with me or one of my fellow LandAid board here in the South West. By offering your skills as an architect, town planner, structural engineer or construction manager you will be using your day to day skills on a project working alongside a homeless charity on projects like East Street Mews in Bristol to create homes for these young people where they can begin to build their lives.

Click here for LandAid South West Board.

Originally published in September 2019 on LinkedIn.