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Tuesday, 24 October, 2000, 23:31 GMT 00:31 UK
Young 'fear homelessness'
Homeless man
Thousands of people sleep on the streets
Young people fear being made homeless more than losing their job or ending up alone, according to a survey published on Wednesday.

Thousands also find themselves homeless and living on the streets every year because of a lack of information on where to get help, said the poll for the homelessness charity Shelter.

Last year Shelter received calls from more than 17,500 young people who had nowhere to live. More than 10,000 of those who phoned were planning to sleep on the streets that night.

The biggest problem was in London where almost 12,000 young people under the age of 25 were homeless.

More than 7,000 of these were planning to spend the night on the streets on the day they called Shelterline.

The charity has launched a housing survival guide called Wise Up to give young people information on where to turn to when they find themselves homeless.

The number of calls Shelterline receives from young people sleeping on the street is truly alarming

Chris Holmes, Shelter

Shelter's telephone helpline received more than 20,000 calls last year from young people. Almost 90% of these calls were from people who were homeless.

Other callers were seeking help on disputes with landlords, medical problems and disputes with housemates.

Chris Holmes, director of Shelter, said the homeless figures were alarming.

"The number of calls Shelterline receives from young people sleeping on the street is truly alarming.

"I worry, as our survey clearly shows, that many young people are in the dark when it comes to seeking advice about housing issues."

Forced to leave home

Some of the cases involved young people who had moved out of their family home because of problems with their parents.

Diane, 17, was forced to leave home when she became pregnant. She stayed with friends and relatives for six months and was later placed in bed and breakfast accommodation.

After informing social services that she was unhappy living there, she left to live with a friend. However, the local authority ruled that she had intentionally made herself homeless and refused to put her on the housing register. Her case is still outstanding.

Becky, 18, was working full-time and living in a privately-rented flat when she became ill and was hospitalised. As a result, she lost her job and had to claim benefit.

However, the benefit was less than her rent and, facing homelessness, Becky turned to Shelter. She is now living in a housing association flat.

Fear of homelessness

A joint survey by Shelter and Nescafe has found that most young people worry more about having somewhere to live than having a job.

Two out of three said they "fear homelessness". Many admitted they would have no idea where to turn if they had problems finding somewhere to live.

Shelter said its survival guide would help to answer many of their questions.

It outlines the housing problems that many young people face and gives advice on how to navigate the problems associated with paying rent, dealing with problem landlords and getting benefits.

"In plain English, it provides people with the housing information they need to ensure they never have to endure the misery of homelessness," said Chris Holmes.

Government figures suggest that some 1,600 people can be sleeping on the streets in any given week.

Wise Up is available free of charge from Shelter.

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17 Oct 00 | Scotland
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