Growing numbers of young homeless struggling to find beds

homeless-at-stationThe Netherlands’ largest cities are struggling to cope with the growing number of young homeless people on their streets, a documentary by state broadcaster NOS has found.

The pressure on facilities means demand for places in homeless shelters is running ahead of supply, aid organisations told NOS op 3.

Robin de Bood, chairman of Amsterdam Young Homeless (Dak- en Thuisloze Jongeren Amsterdam), said there was a waiting list of 60 for the 130 places at the facility. ‘Our emergency beds are full every day,’ he said. ‘We have to turn young people away on a daily basis.’

In Zwolle, Overijssel, 50 people registered as homeless between January and September, compared to 53 in the whole of last year and 38 in 2014.

According to the most recent figures around 9,000 young people are homeless in the Netherlands, but aid workers say the true level is likely to be much higher because many young people try to avoid the shelters. ‘There are homeless young people who spend nights in the pub, sleep on friends’ couches or outside,’ said Joy Falkena of the Street Consulate in The Hague.

Most cities have dedicated youth facilities with an upper age limit of 23, but there are few other restrictions, which can deter vulnerable young people from using them. ‘All kinds of people are living together: people with psychiatric issues, severe addiction, and homeless people who are missing limbs,’ said Falkena. ‘And sometimes girls of 18 and 19 have to come and live in the same place.’

The problem is exacerbated by a shortage of affordable housing, which makes it harder to move people out of crisis accommodation, Falkena added. ‘You see young people being transferred from shelters to supported housing, while they could theoretically live independently. That’s a costly solution.’

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