Guest Blog – Kerri Douglas: Our Young People Are Being Left Out In The Cold. This Has To Change.
Hey guys, CEO Sleepout’s Lived Experience Ambassador, Kerri Douglas here. It’s been a while since I’ve shared my views, unfortunately I’ve been dealing with a new case of personal homelessness. Thankfully I’m fully equipped with the tools to end my own homelessness and hopefully very soon! Today, I want to share my views on youth homelessness.
After reading the latest report from the guys over at Changing Lives, I’m deeply concerned about what the future holds for those young people that have fallen through the cracks into homelessness.
I’ve posted a screenshot from a recent report by Changing Lives, which I encourage you to read. It speaks of one case study revealing how children are forced into online prostitution to make ends meet! All because they have nothing to live on.
It’s been 20 years since I was classed as “youth homeless”. What a fairytale it would be to live in a world that had eliminated youth homelessness in those 20 years. Instead, we live in a world that is creating more homelessness by making it near impossible for young people to survive. Particularly those that have left the care system.
In the screenshot it talks about Alice, a care leaver forced in to online prostitution at 17 years old. This is truly shocking.
The gaps in the system are wide open, with care leavers left on their own devices, leaving them helpless. This only leads to tragic deterioration.
Care leavers in particular already have high complex needs as a result of the traumatic experiences that led them to be cared for by the local authorities.
At the age of 16, sometimes 18, young people are released from foster care into a world they have no training for. They are considered “case closed” by the authorities and left to manage with whatever life skills they picked up in their last children’s home or foster placement.
It would not be fair to say all care leavers fall into hardship and homelessness, there are some success stories – but very few.
There is a gap that needs to be filled here, but what can we do? In 20 years of experience that gap has only got bigger!
Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending the Newcastle United Football ground at St James’s park with some of the CEO Sleepout team to hand over a cheque to Changing Lives for just under £30k. Quick thanks to everyone that helped raise that money!!
It was definitely a beautiful feeling to know that as a united front we all did our bit to help people like Alice at the CEO Sleepout in Newcastle earlier this year.
£30k seems like a lot doesn’t it? But without sounding ungrateful it’s only a drop in the ocean when it comes to the funding needed to provide the level of tailored support our young people need. The costs for complex support in themselves are horrendous. There’s never a one-size-fits-all solution.
Unfortunately most of the issues young people are facing are from system failures, therefore most of the solutions must come from those willing to put the work in to redesign the system so that everyone deserves to start life with a fair chance.
My recommendation to those with the power to change this is to put the polyfiller away and to stop painting over the cracks. These problems need thought, time, money and compassion. It’s time for a different approach.
In Wales, a Universal Basic Income is being trialled with care leavers to support them as they develop into independent young adults. It could go a long way to closing the gap for young people, giving them a chance to make their own way in life. I will be watching the outcomes closely.
As a society we must continue to unite, finding new ways to tackle the issue, raise those much needed funds – and awareness of the personal and societal cost if we let things continue as-is.
My response to it all is by putting the unity back into the community, using our collective voice to demand a systemic re-think. In doing so we can end poverty, homelessness and even loneliness.
We have a lot of CEO Sleepout events booked for the coming year, why not join one? You can find an event near you on the website.
The more people involved, the more understanding we can unlock, and the money we raise which means the more lives we can change together. That creates a ripple effect that can lead to lasting change.
I would strongly encourage you to check out the full report over at this link
To learn more about the Universal Basic Income for care leavers in Wales take a look at this link.
Please stay posted on this because there’s so much more to unpack but for now I’m going to leave you to ponder on this…
Bye for now,
Kerri Douglas is CEO SLEEPOUT UK’S Lived Experience Ambassador. She is a published author, speaker and advocate for system change and homelessness. Kerri offers training and consultancy in rough sleeping, homelessness, housing, recovery and stigma.