Rural boom hits young homeless

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The Independent Online
INCREASING NUMBERS of young people in rural areas are sleeping rough in barns or garden sheds because of the lack of cheap housing, researchers said yesterday.

A second survey reports that the housing crisis in London has forced local authorities to dump families in other cities.

The reports reveal how the property boom, which has seen house prices rise at their fastest rate in nearly 10 years, has made private rented accommodation too expensive for many councils.

The rural idyll of beautiful scenery and wide open spaces no longer exists for many young people, who are sleeping in barns, sheds and on school playing fields because of low wages, unemployment, limited transport and expensive housing, a report by Centrepoint, a national charity for homeless young people, and the Countryside Agency concluded.

The nationwide study found that the lack of affordable private rented housing was made worse in many areas by tourism and housing benefit restrictions on the under-25s.

Homelessness experts said that more accommodation should be provided for young people in need, including non-hostel emergency shelters, as well as other support to help youngsters find housing.

It is estimated that 300,000 young people are homeless in Britain. The report shows that the problem is not confined to the big cities but is affectingrural areas such as Cumbria, Co Durham, Devon, Lancashire and Berkshire.

"Young people in rural areas are ending up homeless because they are isolated from any means of support, communication or advice. Many want to stay in areas where they grew up because they know people," said Victor Adebowale, chief executive of Centrepoint. "Many young people find this intimidating and frightening and they often end up alone on the streets," he said.

The lack of emergency accommodation forces many young people into towns or cities for help, where they are at greater risk of drugs, violence and the sex industry.

Terry Massey, now 20, was made homeless at 18 when he left foster care. "I went to the council who said they could do nothing for me. Housing benefit did not cover enough of the rent so I got evicted from my bedsit and ended up sleeping on the streets for several months. It was very frightening, I ended up in jail for two years for getting involved in a fight," he said.

Ewen Cameron, chairman of the Countryside Agency, said: "We need action now if we are going to meet the acute needs of these vulnerable young people in rural areas."

A second report by the Association of London Government, revealed that hundreds of families were being displaced from the capital because of the rising cost of housing. There are now more than 37,000 homeless families in temporary accommodation, an increase of 28 per cent since March 1998.

Many London councils cannot afford the rising costs of hotel and bed and breakfast accommodation and are housing thousands of people outside their borough. Over 200 families were placed in other cities such as Liverpool and Leicester.