Backing The Independent and Centrepoint’s Young and Homeless Helpline appeal, the singer, who has been volunteering at homeless centres since 2011, said many people still mistakenly believed that most homeless young people were on the streets because of drug and alcohol abuse.
She said: “There is a stigma of what a homeless person is – that they abuse drugs or abuse alcohol. It’s just not true.
“I know there are a lot of young people out there who are on the verge of homelessness because they might be having trouble at home or having an issue with a family member, or even more seriously with domestic violence.
“Some people come from very normal backgrounds, very normal situations and something goes wrong. It can be as small as a family break-up, or not getting on with your dad or your mum. It could happen to any of us.
“And getting back out of that situation is hard.”
She added: “There is definitely a misconception over homelessness. When people think of homeless people, they probably think of a male, someone who’s a bit older. In reality, homelessness is something that affects a lot of young people.”
If people were more willing to understand the reality of homelessness, the singer said, they might find there were things that they could do about it.
The causes of homelessness
The causes of homelessness
1/7 Family Breakdown
Relationship breakdown, usually between young people and their parents or step-parents, is a major cause of youth homelessness. Around six in ten young people who come to Centrepoint say they had to leave home because of arguments, relationship breakdown or being told to leave. Many have experienced long-term problems at home, often involving violence, leaving them without the family support networks that most of us take for granted
2/7 Complex needs
Young people who come to Centrepoint face a range of different and complex problems. More than a third have a mental health issue, such as depression and anxiety, another third need to tackle issues with substance misuse. A similar proportion also need to improve their physical health. These problems often overlap, making it more difficult for young people to access help and increasing the chances of them becoming homeless
Young people's chances of having to leave home are higher in areas of high deprivation and poor prospects for employment and education. Many of those who experience long spells of poverty can get into problem debt, which makes it harder for them to access housing
4/7 Gang Crime
Homeless young people are often affected by gang-related problems. In some cases, it becomes too dangerous to stay in their local area meaning they can end up homeless. One in six young people at Centrepoint have been involved in or affected by gang crime
5/7 Exclusion From School
Not being in education can make it much more difficult for young people to access help with problems at home or health problems. Missing out on formal education can also make it more difficult for them to move into work
6/7 Leaving Care
Almost a quarter of young people at Centrepoint have been in care. They often have little choice but to deal with the challenges and responsibilities of living independently at a young age. Traumas faced in their early lives make care leavers some of the most vulnerable young people in our communities, with higher chances of poor outcomes in education, employment and housing. Their additional needs mean they require a higher level of support to maintain their accommodation
Around 13 per cent of young people at Centrepoint are refugees or have leave to remain, meaning it isn't safe to return home. This includes young people who come to the UK as unaccompanied minors, fleeing violence or persecution in their own country. After being granted asylum, young people sometimes find themselves with nowhere to go and can end up homeless
It could be as simple as sparing a bit of time to speak to someone they see sleeping rough on the streets, she said. The human interaction, said the singer, could be as valuable as any spare change that someone might hand over.
She said: “If you become more open to the problem and don’t turn your back on it, you suddenly realise there is a lot you can do.
“It’s important to remember that interaction with a person is really valuable. Just stopping and talking and giving a bit of time to somebody – people can forget how important that can be.
“I would like to just ask for people to be on the lookout. It’s freezing cold at the moment – please do stop, give whatever change you have – that moment of interaction really is valuable.”
It is far from the first time that the 29-year-old singer has spoken out in support of the homeless.
In June last year, she joined a campaign that succeeded in getting Hackney Council to amend an order that had threatened rough sleepers with a £100 fixed penalty if they bedded down in certain parts of the London borough.
She has also spoken out against the “disgraceful” practice of anti-homeless spikes being put up in the doorways of some buildings to deter rough sleepers.
The “Love Me Like You Do” singer said this amounted to “treating homeless people like they’re pigeons”.
Backing The Independent’s campaign to raise funds for a national helpline which will advise and assist 16 to 25-year-olds facing homelessness, Goulding said she was surprised such a service didn’t already exist.
She said: “One thing I’ve noticed is that there hasn’t ever been one, unified service and an easy way to get help. At the moment there isn’t a single, coherent source of information for young people to access and go to when they’re in trouble. The Freephone helpline would give people a very clear way to get help, and can be something that is easily accessible.”
Goulding was speaking as she spent time with young people staying at Centrepoint’s Soho hostel, giving them advice and encouragement on how to succeed in the entertainment industry.
She said: “I’ve been meeting young people interested in doing creative things, from aspiring singers to musicians. They were asking for advice and how to get the confidence to perform.
“The hostel is about encouraging them to live independently. Many of them lose their support network, lose their confidence. You might find you no longer have family and friends around you.”