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Homeless Youth Sleeping Rough On London Night Buses

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As the number of rough sleepers in the capital continues to grow, homeless young people are being given tickets by a London charity so that they can sleep on night buses

The New Horizon Youth Centre, which helps to provide emergency accommodation for homeless young people, has revealed that staff regularly give out bus tickets when their emergency accommodation is full.

The charity said that young people are given a ticket and advice on which bus routes to ride so they have a safe place to sleep.

The Guardian reports:

The charity is unable to help the growing numbers of young people to find emergency accommodation, a problem it attributes to rising rents, a reduction in the number of hostel places, reductions in benefit payments, and changes in the ways local authorities fund hostels, obliging young people to have a local connection to be eligible for a place.

In four years, the number of people sleeping rough in London has more than doubled, according to research by St Mungo’s, another homelessness charity in the capital , and government data suggests rough sleeping across England has risen by 55% since 2010.

Research undertaken by the sector indicates that the number of bed spaces in hostels in England has fallen by 10% over four years, and more than half of homelessness services have had their funding cut.

Shelagh O’Connor, the director of the New Horizon Youth Centre, said in 2010, the organisation would have been able to find emergency beds for everyone who came for help, but now they were able to help only about 50%.

About half the people the charity is not able to help would then have to sleep rough. The rest would return to sleeping on the floor of a bedroom where there are three or four other people, find space in a squat, share someone else’s hostel room, or move into a tent in a park, O’Connor said.

Bus tickets are given when every other avenue has been exhausted “because they are safer riding buses than on the streets”, O’Connor said. “We tell them which routes to choose, so that they will be travelling around all night. They come back in the morning and have some cereal and a shower.”

Staff also have a supply of sleeping bags to give to young people when they cannot find them beds. “We wouldn’t have had to do that in 2010. We would have got them into an emergency hostel,” she said.

“It is a dire situation. It has never been as bad as this; I am extremely worried. It is so difficult at the moment and I can’t see any new strategies being put in place that might improve the situation. We are all aware of the dearth of accommodation in London and spiralling rents.”

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