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Transport / Mass transit

London's homeless young people are using night buses for shelter – and a charity is helping them do it

Homeless people in cities have all kinds of tricks to help them survive their situation. There are leisure centres or cheap gyms where you can shower; reduced aisles in supermarkets; underpasses for when it rains.

It’s grim to think about, but when you’re without a fixed address in a home or shelter, and at the mercy of a welfare system which won’t give you housing benefits, let alone a job, these little tricks are all you’re left with. 

One youth homeless charity, the New Horizon Youth Centre, has another trick up its sleeve. The centre works to find accomodation for vulnerable young people. When all else fails, it hands out bus tickets and information on night buses so they have somewhere safe to sleep at night. 

As Amelia Gentleman reported in The Guardian last week, these are desperate (but necessary) measures, taken by a charity flooded by the rising number of homeless young people in the capital: 

The charity is unable to help the growing numbers of young people to find emergency accommodation, a problem it attributes to rising rents, a reduction in the number of hostel places, reductions in benefit payments, and changes in the ways local authorities fund hostels, obliging young people to have a local connection to be eligible for a place. 

Research by St Mungo’s hospital shows that the number of rough sleepers in London has more than doubled in the past four years, so it’s no wonder New Horizon is struggling.

Four years ago, Shelagh O’Connor, director of the centre, told Gentleman, the charity could place almost all the young people who came to it in hostels or temporary accomodation. Now, they can only manage about half. 

“It’s a dire situation”, O’Connor added. “It has never been as bad as this; I am extremely worried. It is so difficult at the moment and I can’t see any new strategies being put in place that might improve the situation.”
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