Youth Homelessness Project

(Copyright: Newry Times)

The start of September sees the launch of The Future Melting Pot’s latest research project on Youth Homelessness. After preliminary research throughout the summer, TFMP and its partners are ready to start what will surely be an innovative and vitally important project. Below is the project outline, but be sure to keep following our website and social media for all the updates as the project progresses,

Introduction

The Future Melting Pot aims to increase opportunities for young people from marginalised communities. Evidence-based research is at the heart of what we do. We deploy a range of research methods to make sense of complex social challenges, and our research activities inform the way we carry out interventions. We will be leading this pilot project, to be implemented in partnership with the Youth Offer, Excell3 and sponsored by Business for Birmingham.

Project Synopsis

We believe we have identified a gap which could be filled with an innovative, evidence-led research project. From our initial literature review, we have observed that 14-16 year olds facing homelessness are often absent from statistics and research, which for various statutory and bureaucratic reasons tend to focus on those over the age of 16. This age group can thus be left out of conversations around youth homelessness. While this has been noted in the existing literature, our project however is innovative in its specific focus on 14-16 year olds; a group facing the crescendo of adolescence, GCSE exams and the prospect of leaving school, while vulnerable to exploitation as the growing issue of County Lines drug crime demonstrates. Sharon Brown of charity Youth Homelessness North East says: ‘quite often when we come into contact with young people at 16, it’s too late… prevention is about them not getting to that stage…we are now going to be working with 14 up to 25’. While many charities recognise the benefits of focusing on a younger age group, our research will break new ground in providing evidence to evaluate the effectiveness of this strategy.

We are particularly interested in the role of schools due to the massive potential we believe schools have to make a positive impact on the lives of homeless under-16s. A recent report evaluating the Positive Pathway model, developed by homelessness charity St Basils, recommended ‘a more concerted and coordinated effort to “bring schools on board” with homelessness prevention’, and our study will respond to this call. With a 2017 report by charity Shelter finding that teachers ‘reported feeling exhausted, frustrated and, at times, despondent’ about their struggle to help homeless young people, our research process will foreground the experiences of those personally involved in these issues. Through examining the experiences of both young homeless people and the staff of public and third sector homelessness organisations via interviews, focus groups and other non-traditional methods, we hope our pilot can provide a springboard for a more wide-ranging future project focused on developing preventative measures. We are excited to be part of the WMCA’s Homelessness Task Force’s mission to ‘design out homelessness’, through initiatives such as the Youth Offer, and we believe our project can add to this by creating mutually beneficial networks and communication between different key stakeholders and homeless young people themselves. 

Timescale and Project Design 

Our pilot project will be completed by the end of November. Through September and October, we will be carrying out our interviews and engaging with our research subjects, with the aim of collating the data we have gathered and completing the project write-up through November. We are hoping to focus on three or four schools, as well as engaging with homeless young people through other means including local community and faith groups, and online, via surveys and text-based and visual diaries. We will also be completing at least one key actor interview with employees from a range of organisations, including government bodies such as the Department for Work and Pensions, the City Council, charities such as St Basils, advocacy groups such as the Citizen’s Advice Bureau and teachers and pastoral leads from the schools.

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