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Chilling warning over teenage homeless

PUBLISHED: 05:56 24 February 2009 | UPDATED: 15:03 07 July 2010

The number of 16 and 17-year-olds contacting a housing and homelessness advice service is set to rocket by more than 50 pc this year in one part of Norfolk, it emerged this week.

The number of 16 and 17-year-olds contacting a housing and homelessness advice service is set to rocket by more than 50 pc this year in one part of Norfolk, it emerged this week.

More than 200 youngsters in the age bracket are expected to go to Breckland Council staff for help - up from 130 in the previous 12 months.

Among 18-24 year-olds the demand is predicted to grow almost 25 pc from 500 to 621.

The worrying trend was revealed yesterday as the YMCA officially launched its work in Breckland and appealed for more people to help take in homeless people.

The charity is moving into offices in Tanner Street, Thetford and building up a closer partnership with Breckland Council to tackle the growing problem among vulnerable young people.

The council has provided £25,000 to support a new scheme - the Nightstop - which aims to provide up to three nights' emergency accommodation in volunteers' homes for 16-24 year-olds.

Free to the young person, the scheme includes a mediation service if needed, transport to the volunteers' home, an evening meal, and bed for the night in a private room and breakfast.

YMCA Norfolk chief executive John Drake said: “For many years I have had a heart for Breckland and look forward to seeing the fruits of the seeds YMCA Norfolk workers are already sowing there.”

He spoke passionately about the need to provide young people with a bed and a safe place and then work could start on talking to them about issues such as jobs, education and sex.

“When we have won their trust we can build on all those other vital agendas.”

Paul Claussen, Breckland's executive member for economic and housing said; “We are particularly concerned for those aged 16 and 17 years who are officially still children and who therefore need a particular type of intervention and support.”

YMCA is also introducing a supported lodgings scheme to provide longer term accommodation for young homeless people who are either leaving care or have been subject to a family breakdown.

People from all walks of life and cultures who are prepared to offer support and guidance to youngsters are paid to provide the support to enable the young people to learn to live independently and ease the transition to adulthood.

YMCA Norfolk's rural development manager Rachel Scott said issues such as family and relationship breakdown and expectation that young people should leave home at 16 were making the problem worse and she said increased unemployment could create further demand for help.

YMCA Norfolk already operates in Breckland including working with students at Charles Burrell and Rosemary Musker high schools in Thetford.

It also runs the Cloverfields youth group in Thetford, which regularly attracts 20 to 40 young people aged 11 to 16 years each week.

*Anyone wanting more information or willing to help can contact the YMCA in Thetford on 01842 762898 or Norwich 01603 630049.

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