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Figures fail to recognise true extent of homelessness in Wrexham, report finds

23 March 2011

OFFICIAL figures fail to recognise the true extent of homelessness in Wrexham, a new report has revealed.

Research by children’s charity Barnardo’s into the problems experienced by young people living rough on the streets of the town has unearthed some worrying case studies - including a young  mum who was forced to move herself and her six-month-old baby into a shared house with ex-convicts.

The charity, which carried out the study alongside Glynd┼Ár University, also uncovered tales of  mental health problems, self harm, sexual and physical abuse, sleeping rough in parks and makeshift shelters and the barriers to finding safe and secure accommodation.

Researchers interviewed 20 young people aged between 16 and 24 and say findings show there is still  ‘a long way to go’ before the Welsh Assembly Government’s ambitions to address the issue of homelessness are realised.

Caroline Hughes, senior lecturer in criminal and youth justice at the University, said: “The experience of these young people makes disturbing reading. Youth homelessness is a serious social problem that has been with us for a long time and sometimes because of this we forget just how damaging the experiences of homelessness are for vulnerable young people.
 
“Some of the vulnerable young people we interviewed may not reach their potential as adults unless policy and practice changes occur to support and assist them. There is clearly a need to invest resources in this most vulnerable group in order to try and prevent long term patterns of harmful behaviour.

"However, in a period of recession with the expectation of major cut-backs in public expenditure, given the competing demands, from other groups, young homeless people with complex need may struggle to attract adequate funding for the services they desperately need.”

The report makes a number of recommendations for combating the problem, including ensuring more information about leaving home is available to young people, the need for an accurate assessment of the true number of youngsters on the streets and the introduction of a ‘one-stop shop’ day centre to offer shelter, shower facilities, advice, counselling and training.

Yvonne Rodgers, director of Barnardo’s Cymru, said: “Unless the present situation improves there  is a real risk that some young homeless people will become trapped and entrenched within a transient and damaging lifestyle.

“This will be costly to them as well as to wider society.” 

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