Sitting from the relative comfort of my office, the January cold seems somewhat manageable. Apart from my walk to and from work, my exposure to it is limited. Sadly, for the 8,000 homeless people in the capital, sleeping outside is a dangerous reality and one which could become true for a lot of people very soon.
With rising living costs and increasingly costly rent prices in the capital, the future for a lot of young people appears uncertain. It is estimated that there will be a 24.4 per cent increase in the number of people privately renting in the capital by 2025 and youth unemployment still stands at 587,000. Plenty has been written about sky rocketing rent prices so I won't go over the same thing but will just mention that for a lot of young people, paying rent and eating are fast becoming mutually exclusive things. It is not a surprise then that more and more young people are choosing to move back in with their parents, preferring to save up and have more security than they would with rogue landlords and astronomic property prices. But what happens when this isn't an option? What about the thousands of young people who, in a few years, would be looking at where to work, where to live and how to do it all without having a safety net?
I consider myself lucky in that I have accommodating parents who allow me to continue living at their home. Family breakdown, mental health issues amongst so many other factors however means that that luxury isn't available to everyone. For many Londoners, the idea that they can be 'one pay cheque away from homelessness' is a frightening reality. Crisis' 2016 report states that rough sleeping in the capital doubled during the coalition's term in Parliament.
So what about proactive solutions? The national Youth Homelessness Parliament published their report in 2016, highlighting the importance of protecting vital lifelines of those who may be vulnerable to homelessness. They cited a lack of awareness and understanding regarding difficulties of homelessness and living alone as one of the key factors that can lead to youth homelessness. Yes, homelessness is a complex beast and there are many variables that can lead to it, but identifying key reasons why it can happen and tackling them head on through early intervention would cushion future generations from at least some of the dangers.
Indeed the National Citizenship Curriculum recommends that schools teach key stage 4 students about income and expenditure, credit and debt and other financial areas. But despite Citizenship being a statutory National Curriculum subject many schools around the UK still simply cannot deliver on this - lack of funding, resources and expertise means that thousands of young people leave school each year without having skills in these areas. There are no guarantees that being clued up on these areas would mean a person cannot become homeless, nor does it mean that if you become homeless you lack knowledge on managing money. However what we can appreciate is that entering into the workplace or the property market requires knowledge on employment laws and tenant rights, taxation and budgeting - things we may take for granted as adults but could be crucial for an 18 year old about to live alone for the first time.
A call for proactive measures in schools would ensure that our young people, when leaving school, would at least be armed with some knowledge and skills on the reality of living in the UK amidst the housing crisis and aftermath of a recession. Preventive measures like this would ensure that we cement life skills at an early stage rather than scrabbling to deal with the consequences.
I in no way intend on putting the onus on having more financial security on young people and schools alone - the responsibility to ensure there are enough jobs and houses for people should be with our government after all. But it is scary stepping into the real world, and as a young Londoner, I appreciate that these are uncertain times - politically, economically and socially. It should be our responsibility that we do all that we can to ensure that future generations have the tools to navigate through this uncertainty with confidence.