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Thursday, July 1, 1999 Published at 11:02 GMT 12:02 UK


Education link to homelessness

School exclusions are a risk factor for street homelessness

Over a quarter of people sleeping on the streets have been excluded from school, according to a report.

Rough sleepers are 90 times more likely to have been excluded than the general population, says a report by homeless charity Crisis.

Sixty-two per cent have no educational qualifications, compared to a 34% national average.

The report, Prevention is Better than Cure, says homeless charities should put more efforts into stopping people becoming rough sleepers and getting them off the streets rather than helping them to survive there.

It recommends that young people be encouraged to stay with their families and carers until they are 18, where possible, rather than encouraging independence too early.

The report, the first of a series on street homelessness, identifies several risk factors which lead to people sleeping rough.

The government has committed itself to reducing the number of rough sleepers by two thirds by the year 2002.

Poor education

Shaks Ghosh, chief executive of Crisis, said: "We already known that a poor education reduces people's chances in life.

"But people ending up on the streets because of poor qualifications and opportunities is an example of modern-day poverty in its most extreme form."

He said the emphasis in the past had been too often on providing emergency accommodation for homeless people, rather than long-term support to get them off and keep them off the streets.

"It is crucial that we look at ways to prevent people at high risk of homelessness ending up on the street before they get there," he added.

Other risk factors include disputes with parents, experience of sexual or physical abuse, time spent in local authority care, alcohol and drug misuse, mental health problems, leaving the armed forces and unemployment.

Forty per cent of rough sleepers have suffered violence or abuse, says the report which is based on interviews with 120 homeless people and staff at 19 homelessness prevention projects.

Thirty-six per cent have mental health or drug and alcohol problems.

Over a third had been resettled since they first slept rought, but had ended up back on the streets.

The report's recommendations include proposals for:

  • Schools to teach more about homelessness and the practical problems of leaving home
  • Pilot peer education programmes
  • Family mediation projects for homeless young people
  • Support services for homeless people with mental health and drug and alcohol problems
  • Housing resettlement schemes for people leaving the armed forces

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