The Causes of Young Homelessness and the Theory Behind It
I have chosen this research topic in order to increase awareness of homelessness amongst young people of 16-24 years old. By raising awareness I hope also to put pressure on local people to be more helpful to them so that they feel less socially excluded.
In brief, the term ‘homeless’ means anyone with no fixed abode or roof over their head.
The term covers rough or street sleepers, those living in temporary accommodation, people under threat of eviction, those ‘sofa surfing’ and so on. Legally, the state of ‘homelessness’ is defined as “having no suitable accommodation available to you, or being at risk of having no suitable accommodation available within the next 28 days” (REFERENCE YEAR). The term now has a wider meaning: sleeping out in the cold is no longer the only face of homelessness. Those sleeping in shelters are also considered homeless. Individuals wandering from house to house seeking shelter from relatives and acquaintances are deemed homeless as well. Currently, a homeless person is someone who lacks a regular, safe place to reside. As a social class, the homeless are a disparate group with many different factors contributing to their homelessness. Researchers agree that ‘poverty’ is the common thread among homeless individuals (United Nations Centre for Human Settlement, 2000). However, there are different views on what causes poverty. Possible causes include substance abuse, sudden unemployment, mental illness and many other variables. In addition, poverty can either be caused by or be the cause of the mental anguish of homelessness (Centrepoint 2010).
Homelessness in Young People: Demographics
A distinction is drawn between statutory and non-statutory homeless. This distinction is defined by the 1985 Housing Act, using vulnerability as a criteria. Under this, most single people are not vulnerable, while families and pregnant women are defined as statutory homeless (Kemshall and Pritchard 1997). According to research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), young women are more likely to be statutory homeless than are young men, whilst young men 18 years old and over are more likely to be non-statutory homeless. Statutory homeless young people are more unlikely to have an ethnic minority background in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland but within England, and particularly London, are more likely to have an ethnic minority background. In terms of age groups, 16 to 17 year old women are highly vulnerable.
It is stated that in UK during the year 2006-7, up to 75,000 young people experienced homelessness (ukyouth.org [online] 2011). This figure includes 43,075 young people aged 16-24 who were statutorily homeless, at least 31,000 non-statutorily homeless young people using supporting people services during that same year, and other over-lapping figures including small numbers sleeping rough. The rate per 1,000 populations of homeless people differs across the UK. The region with the highest proportion is Scotland (15.1 per 1000), followed by Wales (8.2), England (4.9) and Northern Ireland (4.8). There was an increase in the number of homeless young people in the early 2000s following an extension of the priority need groups. However, on a positive note, there have been substantial reductions in England from 54,172 in 03/04 to 29,937 in 06/07 and in Wales, from 3,982 in 04/05 to 2,927 in 06/07. This has not, however, been matched by reductions in Scotland or Northern Ireland. There are also significant differences between homelessness in urban and rural areas (Joseph Rowntree Foundation 2008).
The figures on youth homelessness can be deceptive. While the numbers of young homeless people sleeping rough in the UK on any given night are low, this does not indicate the extent to which many young people experience homelessness, as many need to sleep rough for short periods before securing temporary accommodation. Few sleep rough for an entire year, therefore the figures conceal the extent to which homelessness effects young people.
JRF research also shows that young women are more likely to be statutorily homeless than young men, while young men over the age of 18 are more likely to be non-statutorily homeless (perhaps due to the definition being based on the notion of vulnerability). In addition, they suggest that many young homeless people are part of a couple and or have dependent children (Joseph Rowntree Foundation 2008).
Homeless young people have a high level of vulnerability, especially so amongst the 16-17 age group within the UK. There are a number of risk factors which push people towards homelessness, including family violence, pregnancy, mental illness, and substance abuse (King and Wheeler 2006), and these factors also increase the vulnerability of the homeless. JRF research (2008) suggests that amongst those 16-17 years of age, 54% are suspended or excluded from school, 52% have anxiety, depression or other mental health problems, 47% ran away from home, 45% had family financial issues, 37% had a drug or alcohol problem, 39% were involved in antisocial behaviour or crime and 18% had spent time in care.
Causes of Homelessness
There is a link between a young person’s home background and risk of homelessness, with a number of risk factors including moving school frequently, being in care, child abuse, running away from or leaving home early, family conflict and relationships with parents (Ravenhill 2008). According to the JRF (2008), children from poorer socio-economic backgrounds are mostly at increased risk of homelessness. The JRF also suggest that of all the causes linked with homeless the most significant is ‘relationship breakdown’, usually with parents or step-parents. For many of these young people, this breakdown often involves violence or abuse of some sort. These groups of young homeless often have much poorer health than other young people with mental health problems and substance misuse issues. A high minority of young homeless people have multiple needs. However, it is not clear whether the occurrence of complex needs is on the increase or whether agencies are now better at recognising a range of needs.
Homelessness is therefore associated with a complex mix of problems faced by young people, with mental health problems and substance misuse problems particularly significant. Unsurprisingly, there is evidence that homelessness delays young people’s participation in employment, education or training, with many becoming NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training) after leaving their last settled home. (Joseph Rowntree Foundation 2008).
In addition, the charity Crisis suggests that the length of time someone stays homeless can influence how long they are likely to continue to remain homeless for: that is, the longer someone is homeless, the more likely they are to remain homeless. This is because the longer a person is homeless, the more acclimatised he or she becomes to the lifestyle of homelessness, and the harder it becomes to make the transition to a life within a home (Crisis YEAR).
The Guardian suggest that in addition to factors in family background, wider social issues also play a part (The Guardian YEAR). Homelessness is caused by factors which relate to the wider state of the economy and the housing market as well as those which are personal to the individual. Such personal causes are made worse by overcrowding, racism, living in deprived areas and discrimination. Whereas for some young people, the causes of homelessness are fairly straightforward and a function of their current personal situation, for example giving up an existing tenancy or a relationship breakdown, for others, the reason for them becoming homeless is more complex and issues from their personal background are compounded by socio-economic factors. This means that for young people with more complex situations homelessness is not just a housing problem as some of them have other difficulties and support needs such as physical and mental health problems, substance abuse, unemployment, histories of offending and chaotic lifestyles. If such young people become homeless through circumstance, they are likely to find it harder to deal with the trauma of homelessness and difficulties in accessing services when homeless. In addition, young people might find it harder to access structured support for homelessness, or prefer seeking advice and help from their friends and acquaintances (Robinson 2008).
For statutory homeless young women, relationship breakdown is the main cause of homelessness, with violence as a common attribute. For example, relating to Hall’s interview with hostel youths, he stated that the reason for a boy he interviewed being homeless was due to relationship breakdown with his parents ‘Robby is 17 years old and left home only a few months ago, having fallen out with his parents; since then he has been sleeping on sofa at a friend’s house’ (Hall, YEAR). The impact of these relationship breakdowns can include the start of mental health or drug or alcohol misuse problems, or the exacerbation of existing problems, difficulties in studying or working, and a feeling that their life is ‘static’ (that they can not move forward with their lives in terms of being independent). In addition, homelessness is costly financially as it can lead to shortage of funds through job loss and increased living costs.
A history of early childhood trauma, particularly mental, sexual and physical abuse (which occurs in mostly broken homes), is by far the most common attribute found among the young homeless and child abuse has been linked in research to homelessness (O’Malley 1992). Abuse can take many forms, and abused youngsters trade home environments which feature alcohol and drug abuse, mixed with crime, poverty and violence for similar conditions on the streets.
According to Whitbeck (2009), it is also possible to distinguish a category of ‘throwaways’, young homeless people who are forced out of their homes by parents for a variety of reasons and for whom the parents have made no alternative care arrangements. The factors leading to young homelessness mentioned above (child abuse) still apply, with the added problems associated with forced removal from the home or family environment (ehow [online] YEAR). This group can be contrasted with runaways (Lee 2005), young people who run away either from home or from child protective services or foster homes.
The demographics of a city can sometimes cause homelessness because when industries such as manufacturing move overseas, many local jobs go with them. This causes a wave of unemployment, and often a shortage of suitable employment which leads to the unemployed being unable to afford housing, provide for themselves or their loved ones. (eHow [online] YEAR).
Since homelessness is such a common issue, almost every city, even within highly developed countries, have to deal with the problem, especially large metropolitan areas such as London. However there have never been enough resources available to deal with the different conditions that lead to homelessness, and this exacerbates the problem (eHow [online] YEAR) .
Impact of Homelessness
The impact of homelessness is an ongoing cause for concern. Young homeless people experience particularly high levels of depression, anxiety and other mental health problems, and are also more likely to cease formal education, training or employment. Young people describe their lives as being ‘on hold’. The section above has demonstrated that young people facing homelessness come disproportionately from disadvantaged backgrounds in terms of both poverty and disrupted, and often traumatised, childhoods. Evidence also suggests that homelessness compounds these characteristics and experiences, and this is examined in more detail in this section.
According to Ploeg’s research (YEAR), young people who are homeless use coping mechanisms which include shoplifting, selling drugs or sex and begging as they need a means both to survive financially and to cope with homelessness mentally. However it is difficult to assess how they get themselves into this condition without looking at the causes and factors that lead to young individuals becoming homeless. As well as social and family problems, they may have existing issues with low self esteem and feelings of worthless. These have a deep emotional impact and may even drive them to suicide when compounded by a homeless situation.
Above it has been shown that youths run away from home, or become homeless, for a wide and complex range of reasons including, for example, family life and stress. They may be getting physical or verbal abuse from their parent, possibly they are living with a lone parent who may be experiencing a hard time also and this may result in the expression of violent behaviour towards their child. Young homeless people, therefore, find themselves in many different circumstances. Some may just want to leave home to survive by themselves as they may not get on with their family: they may have family problems, such as parental divorce and or a step-parent moving in, which make it hard for them to adapt to new situations including bonding with a new ‘mother’ or ‘father’. Other circumstances include teenage pregnancy, or they may have been told to leave by their parents or they may decide they want a place of their own so they would have to put their name on a waiting list or they are placed in a hostel or shelter until they can be provided with housing. Young women who can’t escape from their abusive boyfriends can go into a women’s refuge if they have nowhere else they can go. All of these situations are very unfortunate and within the UK there are wide range of situations which influence young people to become homeless (Hallett 1993).
Health wise, homelessness has been shown to impact negatively on most young people’s sense of emotional well-being: for example a 2009 survey revealed that the proportion of homeless 16–17 year olds with current mental health problems could be nearly three times that of their peers in the general population, and also suggested that the experience of homelessness can contribute to poor mental health among young people. Homelessness is particularly linked to depression, with a variety of negative thought patterns including the feeling of stagnation described above. In addition some young homeless people may get angry at anyone around them for no reason. Issues of mental health play a part in leading homeless young people to become addicted to drugs or alcohol (Fitzpatrick, 2009). In addition, and according to a Stanford University study conducted in 1991, it was suggested that young street sleepers are more vulnerable to diseases in general, but particularly to venereal disease, as they are far more likely to engage in prostitution as a means of funding. Many street youth homeless are gripped by a fear of institutional assistance, and worry that appealing to the authorities may result in their being returned to the home environment they left or being placed in the custodial care of a therapeutic foster home or group home (eHow.com [online] YEAR).
To summarise, there are a number of factors which lead to homelessness, and they are complex in nature. The impact upon young people of homelessness is severe, and the relationship between homelessness and causal factors is two-way, with homelessness making some causes, including mental issues and drug abuse, worse.
The 2002 Homelessness Act (Youth Justice Board [online] 2011) amends part 7 of the 1996 Housing Act, extending the category of priority need for housing and strengthening requirements placed on local authorities (LA). LA were required to carry out a range of new initiatives including reviewing homelessness in their area and developing a strategic overview including measures to prevent homelessness, provide accommodation for homeless and develop a sufficient support structure of homeless people (Youth Justice Board [online] 2011)
There are some notable other features of the act. First, it sets out a requirement to provide housing to non-priority homeless people. Previously, Local Authorities were required to home only those local people who were in priority need. The act expanded LA provision to include non-priority cases, as long as they were not homeless by intent. The amendment was aimed primarily at areas where there was surplus housing stock (Homeless Link [online] 2011). In addition, the Act abolished the two year limit on the provision of temporary housing to priority groups. Now Local Authorities are required to provide housing to these groups until they find suitable alternative accommodation (Hester 2007). More generally, prior to the 2002 Act, if a Local Authority was satisfied that a person was homeless and fulfilled a number of other conditions, they had a duty to house them. This duty had a maximum length of 2 years, however, this time limit was abolished by the 2002 Act (Robson et al 2005).Finally, the Act strengthened the duty of the Local Authority to provide advice and assistance to the homeless, and initiated a more ‘sympathetic’ approach in which Local Authorities needed to be more proactive in supplying solutions to homelessness including taking preventative measures, considering all solutions including those provided by the private sector, and making constructive changes (Davis 2003).
There have been, in addition, a number of more recent government attempts to make provision for homeless young people. For example, the National Youth Homelessness scheme was proposed as a result of the House of Lords judgment of Wednesday 20th of May 2009 in the case of R (on the application of G) (FC) (Appellant) v London Borough of Southwark (Respondents). It aims to help homeless youth and give them a future (Communities.gov.uk [online] 2011). The scheme attempts to co-ordinate provision for youth homelessness through the creation of a NYHS Youth Forum to look at what young people themselves think, the creation of 10 ‘centres of excellence’ across England to help build local and national ways to share information, a programme of workshops and conferences, and the instigation of an ‘action learning’ approach to programmes to reflect upon research as it is carried out (St Basils [online] 2011)
A homeless strategy was published in March 2005, called Sustainable Communities: settled homes; changing lives. This sets out aims including that of preventing young people from becoming homeless. The document recommends a partnership approach in which different bodies and community organisations and local people work together to support those young people who have been homeless in a multi-faceted, holistic approach which aims to help them to find out who they are and what they want from life in order to see the issues they need to overcome to get there. Amongst other things, the document incorporates a realisation that young people can become homeless for a wide range of often complex reasons. The Government therefore aimed to commit to decreasing homelessness for young people including promoting measures such as more accommodation provision to ensure their housing and wider support needs are met and managing the transition of young people between temporary and settled accommodation to ensure continued access to the services they need (Fitzpatrick 2005).
Wider Theoretical Perspectives on Homelessness
Homelessness is a worldwide problem that urges many to question why this issue persists and what the best approach to solving it might be. While the majority of the public may have many different ways to view homelessness and the extent to which it affects individuals, economies, and whole societies, there are a number of theoretical issues deriving from sociology which should be taken into account.Sociologists have argued that the possibility of someone becoming homeless depends on conditions that include both society-based causes and personal problems. Personal problems such as substance abuse, mental illness or minimal education don’t necessarily lead to homelessness, as can be seen in the lives of those who have these problems and still have homes. When certain societal structures are present, personal problems are curable, making deprivation a last resort rather than an only resort.
There are three common sociological perspectives on homelessness, the interactionist, functionalist and conflict based approaches. The interactionist perspective suggests that the homeless population as a whole is ostracized from other socio-economic groups because of exchanges that occur between homeless individuals and those in economic classes financially better off than homeless individuals. An interactionist sociologist might highlight the reluctance among some employers to hire individuals who do not possess any physical address and likely lack any academic or prior employment experience (Kornblum 2003). The interactionist approach also suggests looking at the subjectivity of the homeless person in order to gain a picture of his or her values and attitudes, to examine how these might contribute to his homeless situation (Hohm and Glynn 2002).
A functionalist would suggest that many in the ranks of the homeless population actually can and do support themselves and, in most cases, are able to survive the hardship of daily life even if living a meagre existence. Such a perspective claims that homelessness amounts to little more than social infestation and therefore is a problem for the greater good of society as a whole (Kornblum 2003). A functionalist might also suggest that homelessness provides a solution to other problems in society, for example it creates a need for jobs providing welfare for the homeless (Hohm and Glynn 2002).
Conflict theorists not consider homelessness, in itself, to be a problem. Instead they would say that capitalistic motives are being “the problem.” Such theorists would claim that the reason the homeless problem persists is not because of a homeless individual’s supposed reluctance to advance him or herself, but rather because of the capitalistic social classes that oppress those who cannot find a place to work or a physical address to call home. Therefore, when the oppressors deny employment to those who need employment, the economic-underclass victims will either rise up demonstrably or consider taking a more silent route, the latter of which, for the homeless, results in maintaining an existence of outcasts since they are socially excluded (Kornblum 2003). The problem of homelessness is seem as a function of conflict between social groups with opposing interests (Hohm and Glynn 2002).
These three sociological perspectives provide a minor suggestion of how different types of sociologists would consider what is, to say the least, a troubling and complex social issue with differing solutions (Kornblum, 2003).
Other Theoretical Approaches
Other theories about homelessness and its causes suggest that the main causal factor combines problems in society with the individual’s situation. Symbolic interaction theory, for example, “places the individual at the centre of analysis and looks at the way the construct, deconstruct and reconstruct themselves, their worlds and their own reality” (Ravenhill 2008). In other words, what subjective sense does the individual make of wider circumstances including minimum wage employment, lack of public assistance services and lack of mental health services. This contrasts with theories which state personal issues as the main cause.
It should be kept in mind, especially since people generally class all homeless as the same and in permanent condition, that the category of ‘homeless’ people is actually divided by many theorists into three categories (Stivers 2011). One of which is the ‘transitional’, those who have been through one incident of homelessness that lasted under 59 days. The second is ‘episodic, those who have had four to five incidents that total less than 266 days and the last is ‘chronic’, those who have had two incidents totalling 650 days or more. Emergency events usually cause a person to enter at the transitional level. Individuals encountering episodic and chronic occurrences are dealing with a more complex set of life circumstances. Such a distinction allows analysts to assess the seriousness of the homeless condition (Tobin and Murphy 2011).
Many of the theoretical perspectives upon homelessness are not available to the ‘person in the street’, and consequently there are a number of misconceptions about the homeless. For example, few are aware of the extent to which the homeless suffer disorders such as schizophrenia, manic depression, bipolar disorder and other conditions, nor the extent to which they are inadequately treated for such conditions. Others, such as some Vietnam War veterans, have physical ailments such as a loss of limbs, hearing or eyesight that prevent them from obtaining or holding a job. These mental and physical disorders can be made worse by their incapability to pay medical bills, which prevents them from receiving the proper medical care. As well as a failure to understand how these conditions effect the homeless, members of ‘normal’ society often simply view the homeless as substance abusers or there by choice. In fact this applies to only a small portion of the group with only 6% of the homeless being without homes by choice. The majority of homeless individuals are down on their luck due to job loss, divorce, illness, or other unfortunate life events. Few also realise the extent to which single mothers suffer from homelessness. Almost 25% of the homeless are children and substance abusers and single mothers with children and people with minimal job skills make-up nearly 50% of the homeless population. In the case of single mothers with children, a 1998 government study showed that 22% of these women left their previous residence because of domestic violence issues (Suite101 YEAR). Without having access to the full range of facts, many people in current society believe that homeless people could get themselves out of the homelessness situation easily, should they so desire. This assumption is true of only a small percentage of homeless people, and a large proportion of the homeless population are unable to move out of homelessness because they cannot care for themselves alone, due to either a mental or physical disability.
There are a lot of things society take for granted such as food, address and the ability to stay in touch with others using phones and the internet, but these things are usually lacked by the homeless as they struggle every minute of the day to obtain food. As they have no fixed address or telephone number to use as a contact, getting a job or a reference will be difficult for them. Unemployed homeless youths are assumed to be lazy, but in fact many want to work (Amrosino et al 2007). Even though they desire to work, they face severe obstructions including appearance and clothes. In addition to problems securing work, the homeless are often rejected entry to some restaurants where they may be seeking a meal or use of the toilet facilities. Homeless people who face mental illness issues and have a harder time accessing health care (eHow.com YEAR).
Common misunderstandings such as those outlined above can lead to disadvantage for homeless people as well as stigmatisation and marginalisation. Homeless young people become pushed to one side within society, in part by ignorance of what the condition really means (Jones, 1997).
Suggestions for Future Research
As seen above, there has been significant research into homelessness, suggestions about the causes, theoretical frameworks and practical legislative solutions. However, there are still many areas which could be investigated in greater detail, particularly more consideration of the social and economic causes of homelessness, and particularly of the ways in which factors in a homeless person’s background are compounded by economic and social factors. In addition, there is a need to look at the ways in which the media show homelessness, and the extent to which it offers a true picture of the condition. Finally, there is a need for targeted studies to measure the costs of homelessness and the benefits of specific interventions, as well as the overall impact of homelessness upon the life of the young person.
Evaluation and Suggestions for Practical Solutions to Homelessness
Youth homelessness can be prevented in different ways. On the one hand, there can be attempts to look at what went wrong in the family, and offering support designed to strengthen and mend family bonds, for example mediation. However, such attempts must never leave young people in danger of abuse. Secondly, local authorities can provide a range of practical help for example through social workers. Such help can include help finding accommodation and claiming benefits (Robinson 2008). The 2002 Housing Act, it has been shown above, said that Local Authorities and other public bodies and voluntary organisations need to work together to help to prevent homelessness and to provide suitable and secure homes, along with any other type of support that might be required. There was also an aim for each region to provide a ‘joined up’ approach with one over-arching strategy designed with local needs in mind, and aiming to help to reduce the level of homelessness better. Some authorities with planned strategies have been able to move further to help a wider range of homeless people, especially in areas where there are high levels of homelessness and demand for social housing. An effective local homelessness strategy can:
provide information on the scale and nature of homelessness in the area;
identify the additional accommodation and support required to meet those needs;
identify the services needed to prevent homelessness occurring or recurring;
identify the resources currently available to meet these needs;
identify additional resources required;
involve other public, voluntary and private agencies in partnership work;
spread best practice among agencies so as to provide greater focus on those aged 18+ (eHow YEAR)
It seems that this move has been at least partially successful. In December 2007, for the first time, the Community and Local Government announced a three-year funding settlement for homelessness work by local authorities. Wendy Wilson of the House of Commons stated that:
‘Councils will receive at least ?150 million over three year to help them prevent and tackle homelessness in their areas and will receive almost ?50 million in homelessness grants next year – a ?3 million increase on last year and a rise of 6%.
All local authorities will receive at least ?30,000, with some receiving increases of 25% higher than last year Newham, Solihull and Sunderland.’
Wilson concluded that the purpose of this funding settlement award is to help councils plan for the long-term to achieve even more for their money, and to help them meet targets to reduce the number of households in temporary accommodation by 50% , with an aim of ending the use of bed and breakfasts for 16 to 17 year olds by 2010. Through this money-saving scheme, councils will be able to invest funding in expanding successful prevention schemes such as rent deposit and mediation services, which have already demonstrated the potential to contribute to huge falls in homelessness and making further reductions in rough sleeping by funding outreach and day centre services.
Preventing homelessness could also include the provision of an even broader range of advice and support services to help people access social and privately rented housing; to help sustain tenancies and prevent eviction and to help with difficult family or relationship situations through mediation.. Evidence from both Germany and England has suggested that successful implementation of homelessness prevention interventions can contribute to overall reductions in homelessness (Duherty, 2008).
Further practical suggestions concern the need for help for the mental conditions often experienced by the homeless. Many people in this situation do not get mental help, perhaps because of their financial situation, or perhaps because their mental problems mean they find it difficult to navigate the system offering them assistance. If such help is made more easily available, more homeless youths might get the treatment needed to mentally prepare them for a better life (Benjaminsen et al, 2009).
In addition, it can be argued that there is a real need to educate the general public about homelessness to counteract negative associations and perhaps even get them involved in helping the homeless perhaps by organising fundraising activities. The more people know about homelessness, the better the chance of reducing or rehabilitating the homeless.
Homeless is a problem which effects the whole of the UK, but for which local solutions are most useful. It is impossible for one agency, government body or third-sector organisation to provide a one-size-fits-all solution. There is rather a need to use successful partnerships between all institutions and individuals who have a stake in the issue to solve the complex issues of homelessness (Bath and North East Somerset Council 2008).
There is a need for local authorities and other agencies to go beyond simply providing accommodation for homeless people. If action is carried out early enough, it can prevent people becoming homeless in the first place.. Also, even if people are rehoused, they may become homeless again if they are not helped to sustain their home, so action is also needed to support the vulnerable over an extended period of time (London Borough of Merton 2003).
Overall, there has been some positive moves by Government towards solving the homeless problem among young people, especially since the 2002 Housing Act. The policies set out here, especially the requirement that local authorities should take a more active role, seem to have helped address some of the issues, particularly the need to create a solution which is multi-faceted and which does not merely address the provision of accommodation. The strategic approach also seems to ensure that different agencies act together, not in conflict with each other. The removal of time limits for duty to the homeless and other situations has also been positive as it seems to recognise that homelessness is a problem which cannot always be solved quickly.There is, however, a pressing need to educate the general population about homelessness, and help them see it is a problem that effects ordinary people like themselves. While government can provide funding, other work needs to be taken on by ordinary members of the public. Those who are aware of the issues might help by volunteering, while others how are less informed might be encouraged to donate useful goods or make a financial contribution (Suite101 YEAR)
While emphasising the role members of the public can play, and while acknowledging that wider publicity about homeless issues, and particularly the way homelessness effects young people, would be very useful, there is always going to be a need for government to provide the funding so that adequate support services and other preventative measures can be carried out.Homeless has been an issue that has impacted the lives of many people for a long time, and it is one which occurs throughout the world, and particularly within the UK. However, it has been shown that certain strategies can help reduce the problem.
Working on this project taught me a great deal about the process of secondary research (research which looks at existing studies rather than carrying out investigations from scratch) (McGivern 2009).I developed a research question and associated research aims, and learned how to search most efficiently for data both electronically and through libraries. I accessed electronic databases through my university library, and refined the search by using keywords including ‘homelessness’ youth’ ‘young people’ ‘accommodation issues’ ‘housing legislation’ and similar alone and in conjunction. I tried to keep the material used to articles written in the last ten years, but sometimes had to look at earlier material. I also tried to concentrate on material pertinent to the UK, but looked wider afield on occasion, particularly for the discussion on theory. In order to obtain a broader knowledge of the topic, I also visited the TUG Library Centre in Holloway where I got to read through some more reports and obtained some statistical report based on homeless young people but especially women. One important learning experience was taking a basic idea for a research project and refining it to a finished piece. This involved ‘brainstorming’ ideas around issues of homelessness, and organising the thoughts I came up with into a coherent and structured piece. I found discussion with fellow students and my tutors very helpful here, as they allowed me to talk through my ideas, reject ones which were off topic and refine my overall theme.
I found that reflection played a key part in writing this assignment. I first made notes from different sources, and I would then let the ideas develop in my head over a few days. During this time I would have different ideas about new areas to investigate and things to omit from the final piece. Giving myself enough time to think through key themes was very important in researching and writing this piece.
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