WE MUST ACT NOW, SO THAT WE DON’T LOSE THE YOUNG PEOPLE IN THE FUTURE

Sidste nyt

The national survey of homelessness in Denmark 2017 is disappointing to reading, because homelessness in Denmark is continuously rising. According to the report, published on September 1st 2017 by The Danish Center of Applied Social Science, the number of homeless citizens has risen from 6138 in 2015 to 6635 in 2017.

The survey of homelessness in Denmark began in 2007 and has been carried out every two years since. With this continuous survey, we uncover the living conditions for the most vulnerable and marginalized citizens on a regular basis. The survey generates useful and necessary knowledge for all players in the field of homelessness and helps us to develop measures and methods, which can remedy the distress on the street and support the homeless person to a better existence.

The latest survey from 2017 unfortunately shows a continual rising in the number of young homeless people; from 1172 in 2015 to 1278 in 2017, corresponding to a 9% rise. If we look at the overall period from 2009 to 2017, it turns out, that the number of young homeless people has doubled; from 633 in 2009 to 1278 in 2017, corresponding to 102%.

In this article, we focus on the growth in young people’s homelessness. It is particularly worrying – for society as a whole, but first and foremost for the young people, because without sufficient measures, they risk looking forward to a much to short life as chronically homeless.

Young people’s homelessness is extremely complex and is often caused by an interaction between many different factors. The general lack of cheap housing is a major cause of homelessness for many young people in the age 18-24. Twenty three percent of the young people state, that lack of suitable housing is the cause of their homelessness, while 14% of the young people in this group specify eviction of their residence as the cause of their homelessness.

Project UDENFOR has previously highlighted the circumstances of the housing situation as particularly problematic for the young people. For many young people, the low social benefit doesn’t cover both housing and living expences and some young people face the additional problem, that they can’t handle an independent life in their own home and are therefore eventually evicted.

The national survey also shows, that homeless young people to a large extent suffer from a mental illness. This is true for 46% of the young homeless men, and as much as 64% for young homeless women.

In regards to addicitions, we see, that 61 % of the young homeless men struggle with addictions, while this is true for 34% of the young homeless women. For both men and women in this group the abuse of hashish is prevalent.

The situation for some of the young homeless people is extremely complex, because they are both addicts and have mental difficulties. This is true for 29% of the young men and for 24% of the young women.

Let’s take a closer look at the help, we offer young homeless people. Is it possible here to find some answers to the question why the number of young homeless people isn’t reduced, but on the contrary continues to rise?

The survey shows, that 24% of the young people receive psychiatric treatment and 16% receive treatment for addictions. Thirty seven percent of the young people receive some form of housing support or the support of a mentor, while 31% have made a written plan for future action. Twenty nine percent is on a waiting list for an apartment and 3% is on a waiting list for other housing arrangements.

Project UDENFOR finds, that the number of young homeless people who receive one or several kinds of social support, is way too modest. We are also critical of the range of social services for the young people, which we find unambitious and conventional when we take into consideration, that this group of young people is not only vulnerable, but also in the transition from one life phase to another – with all that it entails of limit seeking, experimentation with modes of life, and the search for possible identities.

There are probably several explanations of the modest effort and the limited array of social services. Here we will just highlight the fact, that many of the young homeless people that we meet, find, that the public social and health care system is not designed to help them. They don’t trust neither the system nor it’s professional helpers, because the social benefit doesn’t cover their living expences and they feel exposed to meaningless regularity and follow-up tyranny, which make no sense to them. When one as a young homeless person has neither a home, nor a calendar, and it doesn’t matter, whether it is Wednesday or Saturday, because all one’s awaken hours are focused on finding food or shelter for the night, well, then the risk of missing an appointment with the social services is imminent. Unfortunately, cessation of the payment of one’s social benefit is a reality. Because of these experiences, many of the young homeless people turn their back to the system and chose to get by in other ways. For as long as it is possible, however, because the homeless behavior and the stressful lifestyle take their toll on network and family, who in many cases give up on the young person. He or she can now look forward to begging and criminal behavior as survival strategies.

Young people’s homelessness calls for measures, which meet them where they are right now – both on the street and in life. The main part of the young people still have hope for the future and wish like everybody else a life with a home, education, work and family. Some of them are – despite their homelessness – active in the education system. We see this when project UDENFOR holds seminars in high schools. On a regular basis, a teacher or classmates, after the introduction tell about a person in the class, who is homeless. It also happens, that the young homeless person after the seminar comes over and tells us about his situation himself.

It is thought-provoking that young homeless people move about our education system. They have no place to sleep, eat or to do their homework, but they do the utmost to hang in there and be persistent. They are bright and they want an education and to fend for themselves. They want to be active and to have a life just like everyone else. And most of them have a realistic prospect of getting on the right track and to have a good life, because they are not yet marked by a long and fatiguing life as a homeless person.

Their effort calls for recognition and respect. We owe it to them to offer including measures, which meet them with care and understanding, and which support them in the realization of their dreams and wishes for a decent existence, without taking into consideration bureaucracy and rules and regulations.

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