Many young people have difficulties within the family home due to personality clashes, abuse, or fallout. It can make going home not only difficult but at times impossible.
Between 2019 and 2020, there were 121,000 people between the age of 16 and 24 estimated to be homeless in the UK. Some had been kicked out, others had run away.
With the bridges burnt at home, these young people took to the streets, temporarily stayed with a friend, or sofa surfed.
Young people are vulnerable to a multitude of dangers when they have nowhere to sleep. The streets are scary, and they are not yet accustomed to the world of adulting. What therefore do they do? They take up offers of a warm bed with people who appear friendly.
Unfortunately, taking up the offer does not always mean that they will be safer. It has been proven that marginalised young people, such as the homeless, are vulnerable to sexual exploitation.
Children – those under 18 - are attractive to perpetrators of exploitation as they are socially isolated and lack support networks. Through the offer of kindness, generosity, and an emotional connection, hunters can gain the trust of many young people and use the promise of warmth and shelter to create a power imbalance to exploit.
When children come from an abusive home, they are often prepared to swap one form of abuse for another. Harif told the Railway Children’s researcher that he often swapped sex with older men for a place to stay. For Harif, it was better to go home with strangers each night than to face his father's threats. He believes that providing sex is essential for his survival, yet he was only 15 years old when this began.
Child sexual exploitation often involves a grooming stage where a child receives something for performing sexual activities. This covers any child under the age of 18, and many children are fearful of professionals but they do have options.
What are the options for children and young people who find themselves with nowhere to live?
Children’s Services must ensure that any child is safe from harm. By reaching out to someone professional, the young person can be put in touch with someone who will make sure this happens. The initial attempt could be to help them return safely to their home or extended family. If this is not possible- a foster or residential placement will be found.
If you are a young person affected by homelessness or exploitation, or you know of a child who is, there are several places that you can reach out to. The first step is to find a professional.
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