Think back to last Christmas, just a few months ago. I’m sure you were at home with your loved ones, possibly enjoying a hot Christmas dinner in the comfort of a warm home.
However, for hundreds of young people in Brighton, that is just a dream. Liz Clare, a helpline advisor for homeless charity Shelter, gave a horrifying first-hand account. “One Christmas Eve I answered a call from a mum with a disabled son; they were evicted from their home that night and had to sleep on the streets in the cold”. This is a terrible example of something that happens every day.
Low interest rates and an increasing population has seen house prices in the UK soar. One of the most notable reasons for the rapidly growing population is migration into the UK, with 582,600 migrants arriving in the UK between mid-2013 and mid-2014. It is most prominent in Brighton, which has been ranked the most unaffordable place to buy homes for local buyers in the whole of the UK. Property prices have skyrocketed due to a large influx of people from London moving down to Brighton for more affordable housing and a better quality of life. House prices in Brighton rose by 11% in the year of 2015, with the average house price now at £350,222. With the average income year being only £23,488 in Brighton houses are becoming more and more unaffordable.
This is putting serious strains on residents in Brighton who simply cannot afford to get on the property ladder. If adults cannot afford to get onto the property ladder, or even to afford rent, how do the local council expect young people to be able to afford housing?
The knock-on effect is a vast increase in youth homelessness. It is an enormous problem, with 1080 to 1,163 people living on the streets in a city of 275,800 – around 1 in every 250 people. This is a shock to many people that visit the seemingly picturesque city. They don’t expect to see so many people on the streets begging for money just so that they can get a cup of tea to help get through the bitterly cold winters. It is a problem that local people are very aware of, but seem to ignore. The common misconception that all homeless people abuse drugs often prevents passersby from giving money that could be the difference between a meal and an empty stomach.
There are hundreds of young people on the streets, kids under the age of 18 years old. Could you imagine having no family, no home and not knowing whether or not you will have hot food for dinner? This is something young people have to deal with every day on the streets of Brighton. Parents and their children are being evicted from their homes because they simply cannot afford the rent.
The fact of the matter is that in one of the wealthiest cities in one of the richest countries in the world there should be no-one sleeping rough. Brighton has a buzzing economy with thousands of people moving down to ‘London by the sea’; with the huge amounts of capital flowing round the local economy there shouldn’t be people on the streets.
One charity trying to turn back the tide of homelessness in Brighton is the Clock Tower Sanctuary. It is an amazing organisation that is run by extremely dedicated individuals whose aim is to help homeless young people aged 16-25 in Brighton with the trials of homelessness. I recently spoke to one of their devoted volunteers, Lilli Greening, who spoke to me about all of the different things that the sanctuary does for young people. “They provide food, clean clothes and facilities for washing yourself”, these simple things that we all take for granted are luxuries to the young people on the streets. As well as the essentials, the sanctuary “provides job skills such as CV writing”, to help these young people get a job to help get them off the street.
Homelessness is a colossal problem in the sea side town of Brighton – hundreds of young people sleeping on the streets is simply not acceptable. While charities are doing stellar work, the council need to introduce initiatives to deal with this problem – providing desperately needed social housing would go a long way.