10 Days To Take On Youth Homelessness: King's Cross charity's campaign takeover highlights how housing crisis affects young people
PUBLISHED: 08:07 09 October 2019 | UPDATED: 08:23 09 October 2019
If you've passed through King's Cross in the last week you'll have been hard-pushed to miss the hoardings publicising a massive youth homelessness camnpaign.
Chalton Street charity the New Horizon Youth Centre (NHYC) are hoping a ten-day long campaign will hammer home a worrying message: Youth homelessness is on the rise, and it's an under-discussed consequence of the city-wide housing crisis.
NHYC's chief exec Phil Kerry sat down with the Ham&High and told us what a ten-day takeover of the centre's neighhbourhood will achieve, and why it's time people took notice.
"Youth homelessness is on the rise, that's a fact. There's an ongoing housing crisis, cuts to services," he said. "We haven't necessarily seen more people through the doors here, but it certainly feels like it's been busier.
"We've had lots of new young people arriving almost every day."
The centre, which helps find accommodation for at risk young people, while also offering support with employment and social integration has hoardings all over King's Cross, and is also partnering with locally-based companies to raise awareness - and money - to help fight youth homelessness.
The project, called Ten Days to Tackle Youth Homelessness, culminates on World Homelessness Day on October 10, but from October 1, NHYC has been holding events to build campaign momentum.
"A lot of people in London will walk past people who are homeless every day - on the way in and way out of work. People often feel they want to do something but don't know what they can do to help.
"We are calling on people to do, discuss and donate."
Phil explained the idea behind the massaoke event (mass-karaoke) was to do something fun that young people at the centre would enjoy.
"A lot of people do sleep-outs, but if you talk to the young people they all find that a bit weird," he said. "They're largely positive about their futures. They want to have fun so the Massaoke will be about fun."
Youth homelessness is Phil reiterates, a problem mired in wider social issues. He said: "What's become harder is finding solutions for the people who come through our doors. There's an ongoing housing crisis, cuts to services, It's a perfect storm, but at the same time I do feel hopeful that things will change."
He added that the the way young people experience homelessness was different and often hidden from the wider public.
"[Young people] don't always sleep in public places or outside of stations," he said. "You can walk past a young person on the street. Some will be going around on buses.
"They will be bedding down in places quite far from public view because they don't want the stigma of sleeping rough."
Businesses in the area, including Google - who has run a number of sessions, including a cooking class for the centre's young users - have been supportive.
Phil said NHYC was never going to be able to solve the crisis on it's own: "It's about helping people to see the role they can play."
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He added it was important to highlight the scale of the problem and said: "One of the things people are often quite shocked about is the lack of short stay accommodation for young people.
"They ask us how often it is we can't find a young person somewhere to stay for the night, as if it's a rare thing - that happens every day. There's not enough [emergency accommodation] in this city."
In March, this newspaper reported on tentative plans to build emergency accommodation for young people in the King's Cross area. Phil said the need for short-stay beds was "critical", and NHYC was "in discussions" with the GLA about how to increase provision locally. Last year NHYC ran an architecture competition to come up with a potential design.
He added: "Much of the conversation about homelessness is that it's about families and older people, young people are often left out. If 20 per cent of homelessness is young people, we want to have 20pc of the chat about it."
Changing that, Phil, who took over at NHYC in mid-2018, said is what the campaign hopes to achieve. He said: "We haven't really put a target on how much we can raise. The target is getting people talking and thinking about playing a role in the solutions.
"That's the challenge - that's the point of this week. This is a problem, it's bigger than people think, let's start talking about it."
Youth Homelessness and the 'public health approach'
In the last two years, youth violence has been frequently represented in this newspaper.
Much talk of how to tackle youth violence, has centred around a 'public health approach' .
At New Horizon, Phil Kerry explained he wanted to see housing prominently as part of this discussion.
He told this newspaper: "Over the summer - there's a lot of talk about public health approaches. It's right and we want to see more talk about housing being part of that."
He added that homelessness and being caught up in crime were intrinsically connected.
He said: "If you are homeless you are more vulnerable than people who aren't.
"It's quite clear if you haven't got somewhere to sleep at night, it puts you at risk.
"If you are in trouble then that life can be harder to get out of too."
The campaign concludes on World Homeless Day - October 10 - with NHYC's massaoke event in Coal Drops Yard. You can donate £5 by texting TAKEOVER to 70970.
For more information about getting involved or supported the centre's work, see nhyouthcentre.org.uk/get-involved/kings-cross-takeover