Established 2005 Registered Charity No. 1110656

Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

current issue

February – March 2024 : The little things READ ONLINE


Young homeless people likely to have run away as children

May 12 2011
Support groups target high-risk individuals, says charity

Disturbing findings published in April by Shelter Scotland demonstrate that homelessness in the formative years can significantly affect lifelong habits. One hundred and forty-five homeless people aged 16-24 took part in Shelter’s study of youth homelessness and the results were published in the charity’s report, ‘Running Away and Future Homelessness - the missing link?’

Shelter Scotland carried out the study to gather data that would lead to a better understanding of the lifelong effects of youth homelessness. The charity felt that the issue needed to be addressed in order to prevent this becoming a trend across the country.

Following the study, Shelter recommends that support groups work together to recognise and target high-risk individuals and to support young people in order to prevent the pattern of running away.

The findings show that young people who run away from home or from care before the age of 16 are consistently at high risk of becoming homeless or having housing issues later in life. Although this connection may be somewhat self-evident, Shelter believe it is important to understand the problem in order to effectively combat youth homelessness.

The study also shows that over half of the young people who leave home do so because they feel that it would be impossible to stay. Findings show that having had a safe place to go would have alleviated the situation for a quarter of respondents while most youngsters also felt that they would have benefited from support at school or at home.

National estimates suggest that only 11 per cent of young homeless people run away before the age of 16. Shelter’s study shows that the figure is closer to 84 per cent.

Half of runaways who went on to become homeless left home for the first time when they were 14 or 15, but shockingly one in five were 11-years-old or younger. Sixty-three per cent of all respondents reported having slept rough, a number far higher than the current national estimates of rough sleeping among young runaways. Shelter’s research demonstrates that running away during adolescence correlates with a higher risk of homelessness later on in life.