06 September 1999
Homelessness grows in countryside

by FWi staff

HOMELESSNESS is a growing problem in rural areas, according to Centrepoint, the national charity for homeless young people, and the Countryside Agency.

Young people sleeping rough are the tip of the iceberg, reveals research published today into the housing and support needs of young people across the country.

Many more form the hidden homeless; staying with friends or relatives until their welcome runs out, says a report published jointly by the two organisations.

There is as acute lack of affordable private rented accommodation for young people, exacerbated by the demands of tourism and housing benefit restrictions.

The lack of emergency accommodation forces many young people into towns or cities for help, the report says.

Many young people find this intimidating and frightening and, inevitably, they can face greater risks: drugs, violence and the sex industry.

Young people in rural areas cannot get many of the services that are available in cities, the report confirms.

Accommodation, support, training and employment opportunities often do not exist – or can only be reached by a 20 mile trip.

“Our work in Devon and across the country highlights the problems of poverty, low wages and the lack of affordable housing,” said Victor Adebowale, chief executive of Centrepoint.

“Time and again we find that help, advice and housing simply isnt there when young people need it most.”

The report recommends that agencies and local government should address rural social exclusion through a range of initiatives.

A better choice of accommodation is needed for young people, such as non-hostel-based emergency shelter and more support with housing.

The report also calls on the government to end the discrimination against under 25-year-olds in housing, benefits and employment.

Ewen Cameron, chairman of the Countryside Agency said: “We need action now if we are going to meet the acute needs of these vulnerable young people in rural areas.

“Too often social exclusion has been seen only as an urban problem by those who can make a difference.”

Mr Cameron said the Countryside Agency was giving a high priority to developing ways of tackling rural social exclusion.

One of its first projects is to support a new rural team within Centrepoints National Development Unit, he said.

“By sharing responsibility and working together, we can help young people to become fulfilled and active members of our rural communities – a role vital to the creation of prosperous and vibrant villages.”

To support this work, the Centrepoint charity is focusing on rural needs as part of its 30th anniversary campaign.

This includes the launch of a number of regional strategy reports throughout September and early October and the extension of its consultancy work into Cornwall.