Youth homelessness is on the rise in many areas of Scotland. Alan Morrison looks at the causes of the problem and at what 18 being done in the cities to prevent what is fast becoming a national scandal.
One young homeless man linds a place to stay.
y mum still thinks of me as being a wee baby. but I’m not, I’m grown up and I don’t think she likes me to grow up.
me being young. . . Everything she's been through, I’ve been through, but she doesn’t seem to realise that.’
This story, told by Karen (not her real name), a 17-year-old from Alloa, is not overly dramatic or sensationalist. Her parents were divorced when she was twelve. and life became an endless succession of arguments when her mother got engaged again. Eventually she was thrown out of her home. After being told by her local council that these circumstances did not allow her to qualify as ‘homeless’, she found a place with Stopaer. the emergency hostel service for young people. and from there began the long search for a council flat.
Despite coming from a broken home. Karen is lucky. Hostels and street corners across the country are filled with young people with histories ofbeatings and sexual abuse. But people in general still look upon homeless teenagers as caught in a problem oftheir own making. This is a view which (folin Chalmers of Scottish Child strongly refutes.
‘lfyoung people are seen as immature because
Not being nasty. she just wants to keep ’
they leave home, then you’re never going to be able to really achieve anything. Leaving home. for whatever reason, is a natural thing to do, and to suggest that young people who have suffered abuse shouldn’t do so is sick. They don’t want Buckingham Palace, just somewhere safe to stay, where the landlord isn’t going to come in, in the middle ofthe night and try to have sex with them.‘ While stressing that the hostels in Glasgow and Edinburgh do have sympathetic and well trained staff, Chalmers points out that the creation of a hostel culture is not in itselfthe answer. ‘Ifit’s only a case of finding an empty building and filling it with all these homeless people, the problem isn’t solved because they’re still homeless. They’re just not on the streets anymore.’ Members ofthe public are often unsure ofwhat they can do to combat the problem. Recently moves began in Edinburgh to establish a scheme called Nightstop, following the success of a similar service in Leeds. Volunteer ‘hosts’ will be called upon to provide an evening meal. bed and breakfast for young people who cannot be accommodated by the already oversubscribed hostels.
Kathleen Caskie, Young Persons Worker for Shelter, believes that the public should also consider lobbying MPs and councillors. ‘It doesn’t help to treat homeless people as different from others, to give them hand-me-downs and acts ofcharity. People overestimate what they can do for individuals and underestimate how powerful they can be when it comes to keeping an item on the political agenda.’
Later this month Shelter. in conjunction with Scottish musicians The Refugees, will hold a fundraising concert called A Heart Needs A Home at the Third Eye Centre in Glasgow. One ofthe beneficiaries will be housing co-operative Rebuild. who will use the money to buy equipment and materials to allow young people to take the practical step of building their own homes. The first such project begins in Edinburgh next month.
Homeless Voices, an eye-opening series of interviews with homeless teenagers, is available from Scottish Child, 40 Shandwick Place, Edinburgh, EH2 4R T, costing £2.50plus £1 packaging and postage. A Heart Needs A Home will take place at the Third Eye Centre in Glasgow on Tuesday 28 February at8pm. Tickets (£5/£3) are available from the Third Eye, C and/eriggs Ticket Centre and usual outlets.
I VOLUNTARY COMMUNITY groups ' across Scotland are eagerly awaiting
the outcome oi an unprecedented court hearing which took place earlier this month. The appeal (The List 139) was brought about by local campaign group i GlasgowtorPeople,whoquestioned ' the right at Strathclyde Regional l Council and the Secretary of State tor Scotland to propose radical changes to
4mm 22 February — 7 March 199i H
the city‘s urban motorway plans without public consultation.
The Secretary of State had challenged the organisation‘s right to f be considered appellants, but this was ‘ withdrawn before the hearing began, a ‘ decision described by Alice Mosley, the secretary at Glasgow tor People, as ‘a victory in itselt, which hopefully will encourage other voluntary groups to
take on the authorities over planning matters.’ '
Lord Murray’s ruling will be made public in about tour weeks time. A brochure detailing the issue is available from Glasgow tor People, 3 Royal Exchange Court, 85 Queen Street, Glasgow.
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