“Speak your Mind?”: Youth Homelessness and Mental Health

I have worked in the youth homelessness sector for most of my 30-year career; unfortunately, in that time I have met many young people who, through an often-tragic set of circumstances, have ‘suffered’, and suffering is an accurate description, poor mental health. A report out this month ‘The impact of homelessness on health: a guide for local authorities’, (LGA, 2017), tells us:

70% of homeless young people have mental health problems
33% of homeless young people self-harm
51% of homeless young people were excluded from school
57% of homeless young people are not in education, employment or training

Most of us could list a set of circumstances that despite the passage of time, continues to plague many children and young people in our communities. The ‘Good Childhood Report’, (Children’s Society, 2017), links the issues of multiple disadvantage to our children and young people’s poor well-being. There are 27 categories of childhood disadvantage covering neglect, being part of a household in debt and poverty, with parents who are unemployed, maybe misusing alcohol or have long-term illness or mental health issues, in areas where they fear, or have experienced crime and anti-social behaviour, and live in conditions which are overcrowded, where they may have moved many times, been at risk of homelessness or have experienced homelessness.

Homeless Link Health Needs Audit

The figures show us that this year the figures for unhappy children and young people is higher than ever, but are we really surprised? The future looks bleak for those suffering multiple disadvantage. Unemployment, though we are told it is decreasing remains highest in the north, changes to welfare reform have been biting for some time and are set to worsen as Universal Credit begins to be rolled out across the country amongst cries to halt the process ‘Universal Credit needs to be paused now’ (CAB, 2017) because of the anticipated difficulties it will cause for many, particularly vulnerable people.

Multiple disadvantage is a clear indicator of continued disadvantage throughout life, as is being excluded from school and not being in education, employment or training. So, we know the causes, we know they occur during childhood and we know that personal resilience can be a determining factor for someone making positive decisions about their life.

Young person during YHNE Novel Psychoactive Substances research

It is well recognised that homelessness is not just about bricks and mortar; yes, we do need housing choices, and for some, appropriate support but we also need to give our children and young people the personal resilience you achieve through good mental health and the knowledge so that they can make positive choices to achieve thriving futures. Every child and young person, should matter, we must do more.


Sharon Brown

Youth Homeless North 


Additional Information

Youth Homeless North East Mental Health Briefing – “Why do I feel like this?”  Mental Health Project Final Report April 2019

Homeless Link Health Needs Audit

Missing People: An Insight into the links between Missing, Mental Health and Homelessness –

“A Time Bomb Waiting to Explode”: A Survey of GPs’ Concerns about Mental Health
Services for Children and Young People –

The Children’s Society: The Good Childhood Report 2017 –


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