Covid pandemic has fuelled homelessness among young adults, new research finds

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A survey of people without a home found that the problem was particularly acute among young adults and that more than one in five respondents slept rough regularly. High rents were found to be a significant contributory factor.

The Jersey Homelessness Strategic Board – an independent group which informs government policy and which carried out the research – has published eight key priorities with the aim of reducing, and eventually eliminating, homelessness in Jersey.

Vice-chairman of the Shelter Trust Guy Le Maistre said the pandemic had brought the problem into sharper focus.

At the beginning of the Covid-19 outbreak, the demand for temporary or emergency shelter shot up rapidly. Mr Le Maistre said that there were ‘too many people for the hostels to cope with and for people to be able to socially distance’. ‘Different organisations worked together to quickly find additional accommodation as a temporary solution,’ he added. ‘This was a real positive, but we need to have permanent measures in place to resolve the ongoing problem.’

The board surveyed 121 homeless people and the majority of respondents had full, entitled housing status. A disproportionately high number of 16- to 24-year-olds responded, underlining the problems affecting young people. The survey also found that ‘fairly significant numbers’ of respondents were sleeping rough regularly.

Almost a quarter of respondents (22%) who said they had insecure accommodation cited high rents as the reason.

Simon Burgess, independent chairman of the board, said: ‘Becoming homeless is one of the worst things that can happen to someone, but it generally happens because of some other root cause, such as losing a job, a divorce, domestic abuse or other vulnerabilities including mental illness or substance abuse.

‘Without these root causes being tackled the results can have a devastating impact not only on the individuals affected but also their ability to contribute to society and the economy.

‘Our vision is ending homelessness in Jersey, which will be achieved through a focus on eight initial priorities that we have identified.’

Among the recommendations made by the board are that a legal definition of homelessness needs to be provided, that further research should be undertaken as to the scale of the issue, to create a housing advice hub and to provide a housing safety net for all where appropriate.

Mr Burgess added: ‘If someone finds themselves homeless, there’s no central service where they can go in Jersey to find a solution to their housing needs like there is for medical services, for example. We have seen instances of extremely vulnerable people being placed into totally inappropriate accommodation, sometimes due to the lack of knowing what to do. There has to be a better way.’

Housing Minister Jeremy Maçon welcomed the report and said government would continue to work with the board on homelessness.

‘The Jersey Homelessness Strategic Board is independent of government, and provides the vital function of ensuring that the work of different groups is co-ordinated and directed towards tackling this hidden problem,’ the Deputy said. ‘The board’s homelessness strategy sets out a framework for action. Officers have been closely involved in the strategy’s development and we will continue to work in collaboration with the board, and the many other individuals and organisations involved in tackling homelessness to achieve its objectives.

‘I am grateful to the board for this detailed report and am pleased that the Government Plan for 2021 includes actions to be taken during the year that are fully aligned to the board’s priorities.’

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