Why might care leavers end up on the streets?
We increasingly see young people leaving the care system not fully equipped for independent adult life. Often, they will struggle to know where to turn. They don’t have the correct skills to know how to live on their own, how to get through a job interview, or how to be employable. This can result in huge issues with confidence and self-esteem.
A report in 2014 showed that 34% of care leavers were not in education, employment or training at age 19 compared to 15.5% of the general population. This can result in them not knowing what they are doing and being unable to afford a place to live.
The same report also found that an estimated one-quarter of homeless people sleeping on the street have a care background. Many care leavers do not have a family, so as soon as they leave their care home, they often feel like they have no one to turn to. This, unfortunately, can result in alcohol abuse, drug use and crime.
Leaving the care system can mean that an individual is in a very vulnerable position, making them targets for easy manipulation. Some care leavers have told us that it feels like they have just been left out in the cold; they were lost and didn’t know what to do next.
How do we help prevent this?
One of our charitable aims is to prevent people from becoming homeless. We work closely with local services to identify people who are at risk and prepare for the world. This gives them a good start before they leave the official support network. We think that it is much more productive to stop someone becoming homeless, rather than waiting for them to be on the streets and then starting to help them.
Hull Homeless Community Project works out what’s appropriate for each person. We first ensure that they have a safe and appropriate place to live. If their accommodation does not suit their needs, it can cause a lot of problems. We work closely with the individual to select whatever kind of home they require, whether that’s an independent living setting or a shelter with additional support.
We then encourage the individual to figure out what they want to do next. They may decide to go into further education, vocational training or employment. We’re here to guide them in this direction, but not choose their path for them.
Some care leavers may only need advice on finances, budgeting, time management or surviving a job interview. These are often skills that we take for granted, but when you’re very young and have been in care, you won’t have experienced this type of scenario.
It’s also about building their confidence and giving them something to work towards for the future. Once they can see that they can achieve something wonderful, they will thrive.
A real story of success
Kirsty, a care leaver who we have worked closely with over the past year, is a great example. She was in care from the age of 8 and left when she was 18. In short, she had no one to turn to and ended up on the streets. After struggling with drugs and alcohol due to inappropriate accommodation, her life took a dark turn. She made the decision that she wanted to get out of the situation and started a coaching programme at Tiger’s Trust. This inspired her to believe that she can do amazing things. Sometimes, that’s all someone needs.
We met Kirsty last year, when she wanted to do something with International Citizen Service and give something back. She chose to raise funds for a three-month trip to Ghana, where she would live with a family and inspire young children to get into education, gain life skills and develop. She’s now in Africa and on her own road to recovery, as well as helping others on their journey as well.
For us, Kirsty is proof that with a little bit of love and support, you can achieve anything, no matter what your background. When she returns, she plans to volunteer with us and mentor other care leavers.