By Charlene White
“Dirty, horrible, smackheads” is how Ryan used to describe homeless people.
But a year on from ending up on the streets himself… his view has understandably changed.
A year of sleeping on cardboard by a flyover in Manchester, and a tent in an alleyway in the centre of the city.
According to charities, Ryan is just one of the estimated 80,000 16-25 year olds who are homeless in the UK -- although the government disputes those figures.
But charities say they’re seeing more young people come through their doors, and that it’s set to rise again this year.
In fact, three quarters of the charities we surveyed said they’re seeing a third more young people compared to 2013.
For this programme I met people like Jordan.
His mum died when he was 16, and for the following year his local council in Wales housed him in ten different B&B’s.
He didn’t know where he’d be from night to night, so never unpacked, hardly ever ate because he was scared, and turned to drugs and alcohol.
Now aged 17 - and having found solace and help in the form of the charity Llamau – he has somewhere to stay, is off the drugs, and is able to study. Remember that this is someone who’s not old enough to vote, drink, or go clubbing.
But it’s charities like Llamau who are under immense pressure because of government cuts.
In our survey, one in four of those who receive funding from councils say they’ll have to close if the cuts continue.
Their worry is what will happen to vulnerable young people like Jordan.
If the charities aren’t there to help, their future is bleak.
- Fears of closure amid housing benefit changes
The government says it’s committed to reducing the number of homeless people.
Michael Jones, Minister for Local Government, says: “We’ve put in additional money, £139m is going to a number of charities and different organisations to help reduce homelessness”.
However, 18-21 year-olds are set to lose their automatic entitlement to Housing Benefits from April 2017. There are also plans to cap housing benefits, subject to government consultation.
Charities are scared about what comes next. And what impact homelessness has on young people and their mental health.
The stories we heard on our travels were at times heartbreaking.
Our visit to a set of caves in Stockport, where homeless people regularly sleep, was probably the most poignant.
Charities and the government do agree on one thing: there are no easy answers to solve this.
But to ignore it, is quite simply not an option.
Tonight: 'Generation Homeless' will be broadcast at 7:30pm on Thursday on ITV